Recent events have shown that it may be necessary to specialize a social work degree in cyberbullying to remain responsive to the needs of the times. Cyberbullying refers to repeated incidents of harassment, intimidation, humiliation and other threatening behavior toward a person or group, using social media channels. Cyberbullying comes in various forms including cyberstalking, impersonation using multiple accounts, flaming, doxxing and various forms of trickery designed to badger the target to behave in a certain way.
Harmfulness of Cyberbullying
Targeted harassment in any form is harmful especially when the victims are at an impressionable age such as teenagers and young adults. Cyberbullying is one of the worst forms of harassment as it involves a clear intent to harm the target by wielding power through harmful statements that, on social media, can take a life of their own and become impossible to contain or delete entirely. Targets are unable to escape the impact of cyberbullying given the pervasiveness of social media and their attachment to mobile devices. The emotional and mental impact of cyberbullying can be devastating. In many cases, victims have been driven to suicide, self-harm and violence against others.
Cyberbullying Focus Points with a Degree in Social Work
The field of social work is geared towards a service career focused on addressing the social, cultural, behavioral and mental needs of others, providing counseling, guidance and other interventions and therapies as needed. Social workers are often at the front lines in schools, community organizations and nonprofit organizations that deal directly with the demographic most likely to be exposed to cyberbullying. For those who would like to take up anti-cyberbullying as an advocacy, here are a some key points to focus on.
Take an elective or two on social media strategies to gain a better understanding of the processes that drive online bullying. Understand the media channels that allow harmful words and tactics to proliferate in the guise of texting and other forms of online engagement. Strive to learn how the medium works and how harmful viral posts can be stopped or turned around.
Laws governing internet crimes are still evolving, but social workers need to stay informed on laws and regulations that apply to journalism and, by extension, social media. Laws pertaining to discrimination and hate speech may provide useful guidance for handling cyberbullying cases.
A social work degree with a cyberbullying specialization should include some topics on data handling, copyright and data protection. Photos and videos are often part of blackmail and forced sexting cases. It is important to understand the rights of subjects included in photos and videos and who owns the rights to these content.
Internship and Capstone Projects
To enhance subject matter expertise of online issues, plan on pursuing an internship with social media groups, technology companies or nonprofit organizations focused on teen issues. As an alternative, you can also opt to do a capstone project that tackles social media issues and online behavior.
Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Online Masters in Social Work 2018
Social Work Today cites that social workers are at the forefront of crisis intervention in schools and communities, yet there is little support or research focused on understanding this fairly new form of victimization. For those who can figure out how to specialize a social work degree in cyberbullying, there will be many opportunities to use the knowledge and skills gained in a career as a counselor, intervention specialist, youth advocate or social policy expert.