Cyberbullying: a level playing field for the disabled.

This transcript of an Academic Minute* (way shorter than a TED Talk) describes a power shift in the dynamic involving children with disabilities. Traditionally, kids with physical—and not so obvious intellectual or emotional—disabilities were bullied more often than average children. In fact, half of all kids with observable differences were picked on—way more than the one-in-five norm for everyday kids.

The disabled and the risk of cyberbullying.

However,  Robin Kowalski from Clemson University claims, in her Academic Minute below, that her research has found disabled kids aren’t picked on as much when it comes to cyberbullying. That’s because the playing field has been leveled. See psychology professor Kowalski’s reasoning below.



Disabled face exclusion and cyberbullying.


“We tell kids that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

Research and Internet realities refute that.

Name-calling has become more than playground taunts in the digital age. Cyberbullying, the sending of hurtful messages and images via computer and mobile phones, can humiliate, intimidate and embarrass, and in extreme situations, lead to violence and death.

Research data projects that one in five U.S. youngsters has been harassed by cyberbullies. It has an impact on all ages. Meeting with elementary school students and teachers, it is often unsettling to see the show of hands of those who have been cyberbullied during online games played on their phones. There’s a difference between trash-talking during play and telling a seven year old to drink poison and die.

In most cases, the consequences are not long lasting, provided that intervention and treatment occurs quickly and effectively.

One group’s cyberbullying experiences caught our attention. Our research has shown a shift in the power dynamic involving children with disabilities. Traditionally, youngsters with physical, intellectual or emotional distinctions were picked on more often than average children. One out of two kids with observable differences were bullied. That’s more than twice – nearly three times – as often as the one-in-five norm.

The computer era has leveled the field. Cyberbullying, research shows, has a democratizing influence. Youngsters with disabilities appear to be bullied at the same rate as other children are bullied.

The reason for the shift appears to be that the kids who are “different” now can fight back. They often have computer skills as good as or better than their attackers. On the playground you may be weak, but on the Internet you can be mighty, reaching out to hundreds, even thousands, of people who will be on your side in the battle against bullies.”

Closeup photo of wheelchair with red frame and black hand on large wheel.

Disabled kids fight back now.

*Inside Higher Ed
is pleased to bring you The Academic Minute. The brainchild of Albany’s WAMC and its president, Alan Chartock, The Academic Minute features professors from top institutions around the country, delving into topics from the serious to the light-hearted, keeping listeners abreast of what’s new and exciting in the academy with topics ranging from updates on groundbreaking scientific research to an explanation of how the board game Monopoly can help explain the economic recession.

The Academic Minute features a different professor every day, drawing experts from institutions within WAMC’s listening area and across the country. Each segment is introduced by Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Pasquerella is the former president of Mount Holyoke College.



To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.