Parent Views on Preventing and Minimizing Negative Effects of Cyberbullying

Emily Helfrich

Authors:  Emily L. Helfrich, Jacqlyn Yourell, Yi-Wen Su, Jennifer L. Doty

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Jennifer L. Doty

College:  Agricultural and Life Sciences


Emerging research suggests that victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying are at risk for several psychological problems, including depressive symptoms and suicide ideation. While cyberbullying among youth most often occurs at home, there is little research on the role of parental involvement in prevention and intervention strategies. The goal of the current study was to (1)identify effective protective strategies that parents use to help youth avoid cyberbullying involvement and (2)explore the strategies parents use to build youth’s coping capacity when cyberbullying involvement does occur. Researchers conducted seven focus groups, each consisting of two to five participants. Participants were 26 parents (88% female, 69% White) with at least one child in fourth through sixth grade. Results revealed three major conceptual themes: communication, monitoring, and professional resources. Two subthemes of communication emerged: promoting perspective (i.e., helping victims understand how a bully may feel or helping perpetrators understand how their actions affect others) and empowerment (i.e., building confidence in youth to buffer negative effects of cyberbullying on self-esteem). Findings reinforce the importance of parent involvement in cyberbullying prevention efforts and inform the development of future prevention and intervention programs.

Poster Pitch

Click the video below to view the student's poster pitch.


Click the image to enlarge.
26 Responses
  1. Brooke Sapolsky

    Very interesting and important research. Do you have any focus groups based on homeschooling or online learning? I’m curious on how you think the online class structure will impact cyber bullying especially when it is harder for parents to limit access to technology?

  2. Julianna

    Excellent job Emily! Both your presentation and poster are really nicely done!
    I had two questions:
    1. What did parents identify as concerns they had about bullying and cyberbullying?
    2. I see that you mentioned that programs may benefit from including technology tutorials for parents. Did you find that parents that were more technology literate had greater communication with their child about bullying and cyberbullying?

    1. Emily Helfrich

      Hi Julianna, thank you so much for your positive feedback! To answer your questions, many parents identified concerns surrounding the lack of control they felt surrounding the issue. While they felt they could talk to their children when at home, parents often found difficulty finding a balance between advocating for their child in school and letting them resolve conflict on their own. With respect to cyberbullying specifically, parents concerns revolved around their lack of technological knowledge. Many participants found it difficult to keep up with the new social media platforms their children were using, making it harder to monitor their online activity. Transitioning into your second question, this is not something that we measured specifically, but parents who had a better understanding of the technology their children were using did seem to be more communicative with their children about their online activity.

  3. Emily Helfrich

    Hi Brooke! We did not have any questions in our focus groups specifically geared toward online learning, but some participants did express frustration with technology, like smartphones and tablets, being an integral part of the learning environment in school. I would also be interested to see how the temporary distance learning framework implemented in schools currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the way parents respond to cyberbullying. Great question!

  4. Katie Dorman-Sims

    Great job. Your three emerging themes were very interesting. I am sorry you weren’t able to present in person, but you did a great job adapting to the online format! You are surrounded by a great team of researchers, I hope you continue in the future.

    1. Emily Helfrich

      Thank you so much Katie! I appreciate the positive feedback. I am so thankful to work with such a wonderful team of researchers! I think they are pretty great too 🙂

  5. Tarolyn Plumley

    Hi Emily! I think this is a really cool experiment. Cyberbullying is a very new issue that parents are faced with and there’s little known about how to deal with it. I am kind of stuck on your study design though! How did you have a diversity of backgrounds represented if 69% of your participants were white? And a large majority were women. I do random samples a lot with my research and that might be easier because I’m not studying humans? I know you listed facebook and local schools as your sampling areas but was it in the form of fliers, phone calls, face to face asking them to participate? Thank you!

    1. Emily Helfrich

      Hi Tarolyn, you pose an interesting question. In designing our study, we used a variety of recruitment methods that focused on recruiting participants from diverse backgrounds. This included distributing fliers to local schools and community centers as well as putting advertisements on Facebook. While we implemented recruitment methods aimed at creating a diverse sample, the study was still based on these people volunteering to participate, meaning we only had control over the sample to a certain degree. Great question!

  6. Loved your poster pitch! This is Shannon who does the social media for FYCS – and my little dog is also enjoying your topic of cyberbullying! Check the video on twitter/facebook. 🙂 Great job!

  7. Candice Stefanou

    Very interesting and timely study! The frustration you mentioned about parents being torn between advocating for their children or helping them learn to solve their own conflicts is so real. Your qualitative work has some very important messages about this topic. Good work, Emily!

    1. Emily Helfrich

      Thank you for your feedback Dr. Stefanou! Wouldn’t have been possible without the great Research Methods foundation I received in your course 🙂

  8. Kelly Moore

    Great job with your presentation, Emily! You really made the conclusions relatable for for so many parents. I really enjoyed reading your thesis!

  9. So grateful to have had the opportunity to work with you! You have been a joy to work with, and I’m excited to see what you do going forward as a school counselor!

    1. Emily Helfrich

      Thank you so much Dr. Doty. I cannot express how grateful I am to have had a mentor as caring and committed to helping her students succeed as you. It’s been an amazing experience working with you this past year and a half!! 🙂

  10. Merari Flores Saldana

    Great job presenting your research, Emily! I really enjoyed it. Your poster looks really nice too.

  11. Rachel Bomser

    Hi Emily! Excellent job on your presentation and poster! Your topic is extremely relevant and helpful, especially in our digital world. It is nice to see that parents can be instrumental in cyberbullying prevention. Great job!