About CyberWood

Motive

Cyberbullying received much media attention over the past few years. This is justified because of the numerous studies confirming the increasing prevalence and severe consequences of (cyber)bullying in young teenagers’ life. Victims of cyberbullying are confronted with a flow of negative emotions. However, they also experience some direct negative consequences for their personal and professional development. For example, regularly they do not want to go to school anymore or obtain bad school results. Due to the online opportunities today, bullying is not limited to the school context only. The problem can now follow children everywhere and at any time. As a consequence, the impact of bullying becomes also observable in other contexts, such as the home context. Thanks to this, it is quite hard to combat cyberbullying effectively. In order to develop effective prevention- and interventionstrategies, a growing knowledge of the underlying causes and characteristics of potential bullies is essential. This study wants to contribute to this.

Research project

CyberWood is a 4-years project (2015-2019) consisting of two stages in which celebrities on the one hand and cyberbullying on the other hand will be related to each other. The first stage of the project concentrates on the possible negative effects of celebrity bashing. This term is used to refer to the act of criticizing and sometimes even bullying of celebrities by journalists, but also by media users. The disproportional media attention to a celebrity’s outfit blunder or the enlarging of some dubious sex scandals are just two of the many examples. Youth observing this kind of media reports may learn that it is ‘ok’ to express your opinion about some people or some events in that way. The large interactivity of web 2.0 allows media consumers to express their opinion, resulting now and then in heated discussions about the popularity of one celebrity. Doing this, some may use quite ‘creative’ language in order to convince the others. These behaviors may then by transformed to the peer context, resulting in bullying peers.

In the second stage of the project, the interpretation is turned aroud. Adopting a narrative intervention perspective, the study will analyze the positive effects of celebrity news. More specifically, the effect of celebrity testimonials on adolescents’ intentions to cyberbully will be examined. Reading these kind of stories written by their idols, adolescents’ may be discouraged to cyberbully themselves. Furthermore, these testimonials may generate some social support for bully victims. For this idea we rely on the influential role of celebrities in adolescents’ life. These teenagers are searching for an own identity and use celebrities as their big role models. As a result, the celebrities are in an excellent position to guide adolescents’ attitudes.

This project is carried out at MIOS, a research group of the department Communication Studies of the University of Antwerp. Meer informatie over MIOS

Celebrity bashing