228752 Health consequences for cyberbullied adolescents with disabilities: Implications for social justice, empowerment, and support

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scott Robertson, BS, PhD Candidate , College of Information Sciences and Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Cyberbullying victimization represents an emerging threat to the well-being of adolescents with disabilities that creates consequences for their physical, mental, and emotional health. These health consequences can include somatic/psychosomatic illness, aggressive defenses, mental health repercussions (e.g. low self-esteem, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide ideation), and negative effects on school participation and performance.

This presentation defines cyberbullying and the role of virtual environments (e.g. social networking sites, texting exchanges, chat rooms, threaded forums) in shaping cyberbullying victimization and differentiating cyberbullying from face-to-face bullying. The discussion outlines major risk factors for cyberbullying victimization and ways in which cyberbullying can affect the long-term health—physical, mental, and emotional—of adolescents with disabilities. The presentation also examines collaborative approaches through which professionals, advocates, and families develop services and support systems that strengthen resiliency for adolescents with disabilities, while minimizing their future risk of cyberbullying victimization.

The presenter—a Ph.D. Candidate on the autism spectrum—describes a multi-phase, mixed methods study (involving surveys and virtual focus groups) of cyberbullying victimization of adolescents on the autism spectrum. Results from this research inform development of assistive information technology solutions for empowering youth on the autism spectrum against cyberbullying. These IT solutions—offline software applications and companion online sites—support this adolescent disability population in learning and practicing adaptive strategies for countering cyberbullying and reporting victimization to adults and peer mentors. This research introduces implications for juvenile justice systems; anti-bullying policies and programs; and practices and policies promoting health, well-being, participation, and social justice.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Compare and contrast cyberbullying with face-to-face bullying and the implications for social justice for adolescents with disabilities Describe how cyberbullying affects the physical, mental, and emotional health of adolescents with disabilities Discuss approaches that professionals, advocates, and families can use to develop services and support systems around cyberbullying Analyze how the virtual environment has implications for cyberbullying and development of solutions to cyberbullying.

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Disability Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am a social scientist studying disability population groups. My Ph.D. dissertation research in information sciences and technology at Penn State University-University Park is specifically examining bullying and cyberbullying of adolescents on the autism spectrum in K-12 education.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.