The presenters' research has found that most undergraduate students experience online harassment as both the victim and the bystander (i.e., witnessing their peer being harassed online). Experiencing online harassment is associated with psychosocial issues such as social anxiety (Juvoven & Gross, 2008), and no longer seeing campus as a safe environment (Varjas et al., 2009). Online victimization has been found to cause people to avoid or "chill" their engagements with peers both in online and face-to-face environments, out of fear of social disapproval, or future harassment (Alipan et al., 2018; Marder et al., 2016). Few of these students, however, go to their professors or advisors when they need help. In this interactive live briefing, the presenters will address why students do not turn to their faculty and student affairs professionals when they are experiencing online victimization and what you can do to position yourself as a trusted helper. The presenters will:
- Present an overview about the climate and policies that fuel a culture of online harassment, patterns in first-hand and secondary victimization, and why these victims and bystanders don't seek your help.
- Discuss six scenarios (in small break-out groups) in which participants strategize how to help students who are experiencing online harassment.
- Identify policies and practices to educate students on online harassment, prevent it from happening in your spaces, and prepare a plan for when a student comes to you for support.
Students need us to be aware of and prepared to respond to online harassment—an emerging equity issue in higher education with well-documented social, psychological, and academic consequences. For today’s undergraduates, online harassment is a pervasive issue in their online lives that shapes how they participate in online social and civic communities. As a modern form of silencing the voices of those with less perceived social power, online harassment leverages the social networks and media platforms intended to support community and civic discourse to oppress and silence victims and witnesses into submission (Chadha et al., 2020). In response, victimized students may withdraw from their online communities, and develop mental health issues including anxiety and low self-esteem (e.g., Holt et al., 2014; Selkie et al., 2015).
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