Bringing mentoring online to support Canadian youth who have experienced cyberbullying

Sam, J., Wisener, K., Schuitemaker, N., & Jarvis-Selinger, S. A. (2018). Aboriginal Youth Experiences with Cyberbullying: A Qualitative Analysis of Aboriginal e-mentoring BC. International Journal of Indigenous Health.

Summarized by Karina DeAndrade and Harry Bayly

Notes of interest:

  • Study examines 189 youth ages 11-17 and 119 mentors on effects on cyberbullying and if having an online mentor can be helpful for aboriginal youth in British Columbia.
  • Study finds having a mentor can help educate youth on online safety tips
  • Those who spend more time online are more likely to be cyberbullied than those who spend minimal time online.
  • Mentors helped with coping and prevention strategies and helping youth understand cyberbullying. 

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Technology has transformed interactions among adolescents from face-to-face to instantaneous virtual communication. Yet the use of digital media among adolescents can be potentially harmful with the risk of cyberbullying. While cyberbullying is a growing concern, few researchers have explored cyberbullying experiences among Aboriginal adolescents. The present study addresses this gap by examining qualitative data regarding cyberbullying experiences provided by Aboriginal youth participants between ages 11 and 17 in Aboriginal e-mentoring BC, which was an internet-based mentoring program in the province of British Columbia, Canada. The analysis of the data highlighted 4 themes: (1) perceptions and use of technology, (2) awareness of online safety and netiquette, (3) cyberbullying prevalence, and (4) prevention and coping skills. Transcending these themes was the importance of Aboriginal perspective and knowledge in mentoring and anti-cyberbullying initiatives. The results of the work presented in this study highlight the potential benefit of incorporating online safety and technology use in interventions to promote wellbeing among Aboriginal youth. The study findings on Aboriginal adolescents’ online experiences and perceptions of online safety can assist researchers and Indigenous health providers to better understand the cyberbullying phenomenon.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

For perceptions and use of technology, we found these Aboriginal youth spent 2 to 8 hours online per day, increasing to the upper end of the range when they were bored or when accessing the internet related to their personal interests (e.g., gaming or social networking sites). Balakrishnan (2015) found adolescents who spent 2 to 5 hours online per day were more likely to be involved in cyberbullying in comparison to teens who spent less than an hour online each day.

Awareness of online safety and netiquette, revealed all participants understood what online safety involves. Study findings suggest that these Aboriginal youth often voluntarily overshared personal information in online contexts. Aboriginal teens have made decisions about sharing personal information on social media sites based on their perception of public accessibility by employers and others. Past research found anonymity and publicity moderates the severity of cyberbullying (Dredge, Gleeson, & de la Piedad Garcia, 2014). Aboriginal youth participants shared that not knowing who can access personal information online as well as observing what their peers post online influenced their perceptions of the appropriateness of online behaviour.

Finally, the prevention and coping skills theme revealed Aboriginal youth utilized various strategies, such as problem-focused (e.g., seeking help from others or confronting the cyberbully), technical (e.g., enhancing security settings), and avoidant (e.g., ignoring the person). Further, as in other research, factors found to safeguard youth included interpreting the experience as a joke and believing that others experience cyberbullying (Dredge et al., 2014). Our findings indicate Aboriginal youth respond to the threat of cyberbullying by using a combination of cognitive and behavioral coping strategies.

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