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Research finds Filipino youth experiences of cyberbullying more wide-ranging than usually understood


Filipino youth experience a wider range of bullying and harassment on social media than earlier studies have identified, new research has found.

The research spotlights how young Filipinos, aged 15-24, describe cyberbullying as having many possible targets, as manifested in many kinds of online actions, and as happening across many digital spaces.

Identifying social media bullying and harassment

The report, How Filipino Youth Identify and Act on Bullying and Harassment on Social Media, is based on a two-year research project that covered Metro Manila, Batangas in Luzon, Negros Occidental, in Visayas and Misamis Occidental in Mindanao.

The De La Salle University research team was led by Professor Cheryll Soriano of the Department of Communication. It also included Professor Jason Cabañes and Dr. Jan Bernadas, also from the Department of Communication, and Professor Maria Caridad Tarroja and Kimberly Kaye Mata of the Department of Psychology. Their project involved in-depth interviews with 152 Filipino youth across different genders and educational status.

“We wanted to go beyond official definitions of social media bullying and harassment and hear what young people themselves had to say”, said Communication professor Soriano.

The dimensions of bullying and harassment online

Based on the stories narrated by the Filipino youth, the study highlights three main dimensions that young people use to identify bullying and harassment online.

Dr Bernadas, a communication scholar, explains that the first dimension is targets. He says, “bullying and harassment can be aimed at individuals. Beyond this, online posts, memes, and the like can also be aimed at groups like the queer community and ideas like believing in a particular political stance.”

Meanwhile, Prof. Cabañes, also a communication scholar, says that the second dimension is acts. According to him, “Bullying and harassment can be direct and in your face. But it can be veiled because you can just subtweet someone or talk about a person who isn’t part of the group chat you’re in. Sometimes, bullying is also concealed in the form of jokes, teasing, and sarcasm among friends that may seem like fun but are actually perceived as bullying and hurtful to the peers.”

The third dimension is spaces. Kimberly Kaye Mata, a psychology scholar, points out that “These things can start in a private chat. But it can escalate to the point that it happens openly on social media, like what you see with bashing or with cancel culture.”

Addressing bullying and harassment online

Based on the project findings, the research team is launching a series of online videos produced for the youth and downloadable posters for schools and guardians. These multimedia materials will be available in English, Tagalog, Hiligaynon, and Bisaya. The unveiling will happen at an online event at 10am on Friday July 8 2022 and will be one of the key events during De La Salle University’s 2022 Research Congress.

Psychology Professor Maria Caridad Tarroja emphasizes that the multimedia materials help push for one of the most important insights from the research. She says, “Responding to the challenge of social media bullying and harassment cannot just be done by the Filipino youth alone. Alongside these young people, there also needs to be a collective responses from social media platforms and local communities.”

Further information

The full report and the multimedia materials are available for download at: https://www.dlsu.edu.ph/research/research-centers/sdrc/projects/how-filipino-youth-identify-and-act-on-social-media-bullying-and-harassment/

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