Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. | What is Cyberbullying?

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Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. | What is Cyberbullying?

Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D., a NYS licensed psychologist, certified forensic consultant and author of the Information Age darkside of human consciousness construct, iPredator, provides readers with an overview and definitions of cyberbullying, cyberbullying tactics, iPredator and his pediatric internet safety and cyberbullying prevention character named Dr. Internet Safety. Dr. Nuccitelli posits that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and classic bullying have merged to become the pediatric social catastrophe called Cyberbullying. Despite most adults feeling there is little difference between classic bullying and cyberbullying, Dr. Nuccitelli argues that cyberbullying is far more insidious to a child’s maturational development and society as a whole. This paper addresses these issues. 

Cyberbullying is a pediatric phenomenon including the dynamics of victimization, aggression, control & manipulation. It is the addition of the artificial and abstract electronic universe, known as cyberspace, which the cyberbully, target and bystander are at a much higher risk of carrying these negative interpersonal traits into adulthood. Whereas classic bullying is generally considered a developmental issue, fading away as the child moves into adulthood, this writer believes the psychological, interpersonal and technological aspects of cyberbullying are more likely to be carried into adulthood and used in relationships when disagreement, power struggles and conflict are involved.      

Classic bullying certainly has not ceased to exist, but cyberbullying has become the primary vehicle by which the harm inflicted upon the target child is primarily psychological rather than physical in classic bullying. Prior to the Information Age, a target child was bullied by one or more aggressors who all mostly resided within a specific geographical region. The tactics used by the classic bully included physical, emotional and many of the known bullying tactics of exclusion and denigration. In rare circumstances, the neighborhood, student body and local community were privy to these events. Unless the bullying events led to serious criminal or violent outcomes, rarely if ever did the town or adjacent county know of these conflicts.

Thanks to the Information Age, social media and the ability to rapidly obtain, disseminate and exchange information using information technology, the proverbial “old fashioned” social problem of bullying between minors has drastically changed. No longer can a child be bullied, and at the end of being assaulted and/or teased, return home and neighborhood for safety. For those Information Age adults, who were bullied as children and reading this paper, imagine what it must feel like to be cyberbullied. The following passage is provided to help you envision the experience.  

“You leave school after being pushed, teased and taunted. You sit on the bus or while walking home, check your mobile device and read defamatory text messages and comments the cyberbully and his/her friends have been posting in social sites. You arrive home, turn on your desktop to finish homework or play an online video game and the friends of the lead cyberbully continue with their taunting and harassment. It’s now the weekend, a holiday or summer break from school and still the online and offline humiliation continues. You can’t tell your parents, teachers or other adults fearing they will call the school or the cyberbullies parents, which will lead to more embarrassment and harassment by the cyberbully, his/her friends and your peers for involving adults. With nowhere to turn, your perceptual world comes to the following three perceptual conclusions: Powerless, Useless and Defenseless.”                   

In the Information Age, physical strength, size and supporting peer group support are no longer attributes required to torment other children. A cyberbully can be any size, gender or interpersonal skill level. Unlike classic bullying, cyberbullying occurs within the hidden realm of cyberspace and non-internet enabled electronic devices. Humanity thrives at the beginning of the Information Age, yet no one knows the depths children will go in their developmentally dysfunctional and deceptive practices to harm other children for the sake of peer acceptance and recognition. Until humankind accepts cyberbullying requires immediate attention, online aggression and maladaptive social functioning will continue to grow among Information Age children.

Although this writer may be viewed as presenting superfluous concepts within this paper, his redundancy serves to ensure the reader does not forget specific core beliefs he is attempting to impart. Every child who habitually uses cyberbullying tactics to torment and humiliate another child will one day become an adult. Assuming the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, a cyberbully child turned adult will assuredly use Information and Communications Technology to manage interpersonal conflicts with loved ones, coworkers and their children. To prevent this from happening, children of the Information Age must be persistently reminded to use information technology, social media and cyberspace as tools for adaptive purposes, as opposed to, nefarious or malevolent endeavors.

The Information Age technocentric concept of being “connected” has become a paradoxical disconnection causing humanity to lose their instinctual drives for social cohesion, allegiance and selflessness. As dependency upon Information and Communications Technology [ICT] spreads throughout the collective human consciousness, the care for neighbors’ withers and online connections are deemed more valuable than reality based relationships“. Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. (2014)

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Cyberbullying is defined as a recurrent and sustained pattern of cyber-attacks by a child or children who target other children using Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Cyberbullying is harmful, repeated and hostile aggressive behaviors designed to subjugate a targeted minor. Whereas classic bullying typically involves face-to-face interactions and non-digital forms of communication, cyberbullying requires ICT to be the primary tool for delivering the aggressor’s information and may never involve face-to-face encounters.

Although most cyberbullied children know the identity of their assailant, the “veil of anonymity” offered by cyberspace has created what this writer has termed “Cyberbullying in Absentia“. Cyberbullying in Absentia describes a type of cyberbully who targets children, but remains anonymous to their target. They may know their target offline, but in cyberspace they maintain their anonymity striving to ensure their identity is unknown.

By definition, classic & cyberbullying occurs among minors. When adults engage in cyberbullying themed online activities, it is termed Cyber Harassment, Internet Trolling or Cyberstalking depending on the style of cyber attacks.  Although the terms “bullying” and “cyberbullying” tends to be included when describing adult intimidation behaviors in contemporary culture, cyberbullying is reserved for minors 18 years old and under.  Like classic bullying, cyberbullying is harmful, repeated and hostile behaviors used to manipulate, control, taunt, deprecate, threaten & defame a targeted minor. Different from classic bullying, cyberbullying requires Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to be the primary tool used to victimize another child.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Information and Communications Technology (ICT): Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is an umbrella term used to define any electronic or digital communication device or application used to obtain, exchange or disseminate information. ICT stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of telecommunications, which enable users to create, access, store, transmit and manipulate information. ICT consists of all forms of telecommunication, information technology, broadcast media, audio and video processing, transmission and network based control and monitoring functions. ICT has rapidly become one of the basic building blocks of modern society.

The importance of ICT to humanity lies upon a continuum of relevance ranging from minimal impact to vital requirement regarding an ICT user’s day to day activities. For some, ICT and cyberspace are nothing more than tools of convenience for conducting their responsibilities. For others, their social, scholastic, business and/or financial affairs disseminated via ICT are crucial to their self-esteem, self-worth, success and perceptual world. ICT has changed the way humanity interacts, exchanges and accesses information. Smartphones, mobile device technology and social media are the latest in a succession of advancements growing at a feverish pace. It is often hard to fathom that the Internet, used by two billion plus people globally, only celebrated its 20th birthday in 2011. As stated above, Information and Communications Technology is the tool used by which cyberbullies identify, target and terrorize other children.

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Bullying, or classic bullying, is a term used to define recurrent and sustained verbal and/or physical attacks by one or more child(s) towards another child who is unable or unwilling to deescalate the engagement. It may involve verbal harassment, physical assault, coercion, intimidation, humiliation and taunting. Bullying is comprised of a combination of five types of pediatric abuse including social, sexual, emotional, verbal and physical exploitation.

Bullying requires both the assailant and target to be minors. Adult forms of bullying are termed Harassment, Stalking & Slander. Despite variants in definition, bullying involves abuse between two or more minors. Classic bullying requires face-to-face interactions within the repertoire of aggressive behaviors. Bullying appears to be a pediatric phenomenon that has existed throughout the course of human civilization. Although bullying involves the psychological arenas of manipulation, humiliation and verbal aggression, classic bullies primarily used their physical attributes and aggression to shape their target. Not that the Information Revolution brought the end to traditional bullying, but has introduced an entirely new assailant/victim dimension played out in cyberspace.

“Society is being lulled into a technological false sense of trust by taking digital information and online peer connections at face value. Like the child in the fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood”, innocently wandering through the forest, humanity erroneously believes that the “Wolf” is whoever he claims to be. Just as Little Red Riding Hood, humankind is in grave danger of falling prey to the Information Age iPredator lycanthrope.” Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. (2014)

Cyberbullying Tactics

Educators, parents and all American communities must treat cyberbullying as a societally toxic phenomenon. To thwart this growing epidemic, it is paramount society becomes educated on the tactics cyberbullies use to taunt and victimize other vulnerable minors. It should never be forgotten that children who create, implement and experience power from cyberbullying eventually become adults. It does not take much speculation to quickly conclude that an adult with years to hone their cyber attack skills can become a lethal weapon using Information and Information Technology to devastate others.

Cyberbullying tactics is a concept created by this writer to describe the variety of methodologies cyberbullies use to taunt, threaten, humiliate and deprecate another child. The most important goal for the reader and all adult online users is to become familiar with the cyberbullying strategies used in relationship to the tactics & methods minors use to harm other minors. Furthermore, many of the tactics used by children of the Information Age are also used by adult ICT users engaged in cyber harassment, cyberstalking and cybercrime. As humanity increasingly becomes dependent upon mobile device technology, the range of cyberbullying tactics will assuredly grow.

For children born prior to the Information Age, bullying existed and was traumatizing, but primarily centered on physical intimidation to exert control over the target child. For those who were a target, there was a beginning and end with an eventual escape. Information Age children do not have this luxury. The art & science of cyberbullying has enabled an interpersonal victimization dynamic to where a target child can be teased, taunted and humiliated twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and three hundred and sixty five days a year.

Within the skewed relationship of cyberbullying, the cyberbully symbolically becomes the puppeteer using the strings of manipulation to control their target without identification is they so decide. Contemporary adults must equate cyberbullying with a Puppeteer and Puppet metaphor to truly fathom what a target child experiences. It’s no longer Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio” world for the InfoAge child. Michael Nuccitelli, Psy. D. (2014)

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Cyberbullying Definition Revisited

Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is defined as threatening or disparaging information directed at a target child delivered through Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Similar to classic bullying, cyberbullying is harmful, repeated and hostile behavior intended to taunt, embarrass, torment, deprecate & defame a targeted child. Dissimilar to classic bullying is cyberbullying including a phenomenon called “Cyberbullying by proxy“. Cyberbullying by proxy is when a cyberbully encourages or persuades other ICT users to engage in deprecating and harassing a target child.

Cyberbullying by proxy is a dangerous form of cyberbullying because adults may become accomplices to the cyberbully and may not know they are cyber attacking a minor from their community. It may sound preposterous to adults, but it is a reality of cyberspace when the offender and victim can be unknown entities and never meeting face-to-face or residing hundreds of miles away.

Cyberbullies are usually motivated by a need for peer acceptance and/or power and control. A small percentage of cyberbullies engage in these maladaptive behaviors out of ignorance of the distress they cause a target child. The most malevolent form of cyberbully, the Narcissistic Cyberbully, feels minimal remorse for the harm they inflict upon their victim. It has been speculated that children view the real world and the online or virtual world as part of a seamless continuum. Unable to differentiate reality from virtual reality, victims of online bullying can easily be psychologically traumatized and cyberbullies themselves. When a minor engages in cyberbullying related activities that meet criteria for iPredator, the child has entered a realm that can easily transform their personality construct as adults.

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Article Quotes

The Information Age technocentric concept of being “connected” has become a paradoxical disconnection causing humanity to lose their instinctual drives for social cohesion, allegiance and selflessness. As dependency upon Information and Communications Technology [ICT] spreads throughout the collective human consciousness, the care for neighbors’ withers and online connections are deemed more valuable than reality based relationships“. Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. (2014)

“Society is being lulled into a technological false sense of trust by taking digital information and online peer connections at face value. Like the child in the fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood”, innocently wandering through the forest, humanity erroneously believes that the “Wolf” is whoever he claims to be. Just as Little Red Riding Hood, humankind is in grave danger of falling prey to the Information Age iPredator lycanthrope.” Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. (2014)

“By virtue of the proverbial “cloak of anonymity” so conveniently provided by Information and Communications Technology and cyberspace, iPredators troll online with a distinct advantage. Like a chameleon, they revel in the luxury of representing themselves in any way they see fit to successfully attack their targets”. Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. (2012)

“The prime targets sought by iPredators are online users not intellectually, psychologically and technologically equipped. Prime iPredator targets lack internet safety savvy, heightened levels of awareness online, a healthy level of skepticism, comprehensive digital citizenship practices and C3 (cyber safety, cyber security and cyber ethics) plans”. Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. (2012)

“Although the World Wide Web, Telecommunications, Digital Technology & Mobile Device Technology are immensely beneficial tools to society, a growing segment of humankind fails to be aware that tools have many different purposes. When chosen for nefarious reasons, Information and Communications Technology are tools that can become lethal weapons”. Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. (2012)

Article Resources

  1. Cyberbullying Research Center: http://cyberbullying.us/social-exclusion-and-bullying/
  2. Michigan State University: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/cyberbullying_involves_many_kinds_of_hurtful_tactics
  3. StopBullying.gov: http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/index.html
  4. Princeton University: http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Information_Age.html
  5. Ball State University: http://cms.bsu.edu/about/administrativeoffices/its/unifiedcommunications
  6. Florida Center for Instructional Technology: http://uwf.edu/krasmuss/tcuses.html
  7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: https://ist.mit.edu/security/mobile_devices
  8. Chicago Kent School of Law: http://www.kentlaw.edu/cyberlaw/resources/whatis.html
  9. American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/topics/bullying/
  10. The Free Dictionary: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Slander
  11. Lake Superior State University: http://www.lssu.edu/hr/documents/HarassmentBrochure.pdf
  12. National Center for Victims of Crime: https://www.iecc.edu/files_user/SAFE/Stalking_Fact_Sheet.pdf
  13. The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/mobilephones
  14. EdTechIssue: http://edtechissue.wikispaces.com/Cyberbullying+by+Proxy
  15. iPredator: https://www.ipredator.co/
  16. Dark Psychology: https://darkpsychology.co/
  17. Dr. Internet Safety: https://drinternetsafety.com/

Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D.

Michael Nuccitelli, Psy.D. is a NYS licensed psychologist and cyber criminology consultant. He completed his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Adler University in 1994. In 2010, Dr. Nuccitelli authored the dark side of cyberspace concept known as “iPredator.” Dr. Nuccitelli has worked in the mental health field over the last thirty-plus years and he has volunteered his time helping cyber-attacked victims since 2010. His goal is to reduce victimization, theft, and disparagement from online assailants and iPredators.

In addition to aiding citizens & disseminating educational content, Dr. Nuccitelli’s mission is to start a sustained national educational and awareness internet safety campaign with the help of private, state, and federal agencies. He is always available, at no cost, to interact with online users, professionals, and the media. To invite Dr. Nuccitelli to conduct training, media engagements, educational services, or consultation, please call him at (347) 871-2416 or via email at drnucc@ipredatorinc.com.


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