Young victims tackle cyberbullying in documentary

Posted on Monday, June 1, 2015

Through the increasingly widespread use of social media and smartphones,cyberbullying among youth has become rampant. Hayley Crooks, PhD candidate in philosophy and feminist and gender studies at the University of Ottawa, has created a project with an unusual research method to tackle this serious issue.

Throughout her studies, Crooks found that much of the social discussion around cyberbullying employs scare tactics, particularly by warning girls of its consequences, or focuses on stories of victimization. To offer a new perspective on this problem, she created a video project that discusses cyberbullying and cyberviolence as a larger social issue. Youth filmed themselves participating in a series of workshops, offering examples from their own lives to illustrate various problems.

The project resulted in a short documentary film made entirely by young people.

“The emphasis is on the process as much as the product. It offers young people's nuanced definitions of the issues, their insights on bullying as a social issue, and highlights the way that the young people positively engage with media creation,” explains Crooks.

In the documentary, participants articulately describe how girls and young women experience cyberviolence and cyberbullying differently than boys and men.

Crooks says, “The Internet is a hyper-sexualized environment that is often experienced as a masculine space demeaning to girls and women, who are more sexualized online, and more vulnerable to certain types of targeting like gender and identity-based harassment.”  She notes that vulnerability to harassment is increased by identity-based factors (e.g., sexuality).

The workshops were inspired by the theme “what cyberviolence means to me.” Based on the participant's responses, she noted that there is much inter-generational confusion and miscommunication around cyberviolence and cyberbullying. For example, what an adult may call harassment, a young person might refer to as “drama.”

The most important issue addressed in this project was what educators, policy makers and counsellors need to learn from young people about cyberbullying.

“I was looking for a method to explore young people's perceptions and experiences of cyberbullying that would be non-confrontational, useful and empowering for the participants,” said Crooks.

Using participatory video as a research method offers a unique way to challenge the hierarchical relationship between the researcher and the researched and works from the assumption that community members are the experts in situations that affect them.

“This is particularly important when working with young people whose voices are already marginalized, or any community that has historically been voiceless,” concludes Crooks.

Crooks will be presenting her project at the 2015 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, hosted at the University of Ottawa.

Media inquiries

Danika Gagnon
Media Relations Officer
University of Ottawa
Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 2981
Cell: 613-863-7221

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