24 International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010

a Sociological approach
José Pinheiro Neves, University of Minho, Portugal Luzia de Oliveira Pinheiro, University of Minho, Portugal


Cyberbullying has become a major social concern because it raises questions about technoethics. It has been the subject of research, information and prevention activities for different groups to protect against the misuse of technology, and because of that, this paper is based on an exploratory study about the sociological phenomenon of cyberbullying among Portuguese university students. The paper stresses the connection between the concepts of bullying and cyberbullying while promoting a flexible epistemological model that highlights the emerging nature of these phenomena based on the theoretical contribution of Gregory Bateson. In the end, the authors present the main conclusions of the empirical study. Keywords: Additivity, Bullying, Cyber, Cyberbullying, Gregory Bateson, Internet

cyberbullyInG: a SocIoloGIcal aPProacH
The cyberbullying has become a major social concern because raises questions about the ethical use of technology. In recent years, has been the subject of research and information and prevention activities for different groups such as governmental and non-governmental organizations, schools and parents’ associations to protect against the misuse of technology. This issue has become so important that the media also understood the importance of encouraging debate about it. Based on its magnitude, in the present work, our goal is to describe the phenomenon and present some results of an empirical study (Pinheiro, 2009).

on the definition of bullying
Before characterizing the phenomenon of cyberbullying, we will make a short description on bullying, distinguishing it from other situations of violence. Then we will draw attention to some characteristic features of cyberbullying. Although bullying exists long ago as a social phenomenon, it only started to be investigated in the 70s by Dan Olweus, a professor at University of Bergen in Norway (Abrapia, 2006). He found that bullying was not natural or typical in the development of a child but something that could cause suicide (quoted in Pereira, 1997). However, the institutions were not interested on that subject until when, in the 80’s, three young boys aged between 10 and 14 committed suicide in Norway (Abrapia, 2006). Then, the first anti-bullying campaign was conducted in Norway in 1993: the Na-

DOI: 10.4018/jte.2010070103

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International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010 25

tional Campaign Anti-Bullying. Simplifying, school bullying is a term that refers to all acts of violence and aggressive behaviour that are intentional and repetitive. This means that all acts of violence deliberated and systematic, with the purpose to tarnishing the image of others, are considered bullying (Abrapia, 2006; McCarthy, Sheehan, Wilkie, & Wilkie, 1996, p. 50). Although this phenomenon is more expressive in public schools it also happens in the particular ones. The physical space where it happens more often is the playground (Cortellazzo, 2006). According to Dan Olweus, bullying has three key features (DeVoe, Kaffenberger, & Chandler, 2005): • • • It is an aggressive and harmful behaviour; A behaviour carried out repeatedly; A behaviour that occurs in a relationship where there is a discrepancy of power between peers.

According to most authors, there are two types of direct bullying: physical bullying associated to physical aggression and verbal bullying based on insults and humiliation. However, according to some authors, another type of bullying is appearing in school: the social bullying by denying integration in groups and activities (Wikipedia, 2009). In Figure 1 we can perceive what kinds of aggression are associated with the three forms of bullying practice (See figure 1): Repetitive. In the first place, as argued by Adams (quoted in Cortellazzo, 2006, p. 1), European Commissioner for Combating Bullying, this problem is not just an accidental conflict, but a repeated situation. It should present, therefore, a characteristic that differentiates bullying from a traditional dispute between peers, more or less serious. Therefore we know that this is a case of bullying while the disagreement among peers is in fact continuous (Carvalho, Lima, & Matos, 2001). The continued disagreement is easily visible as we will see over days, weeks, months and years, the same peers in consecutive disagreements (Abrapia, 2006). Throughout this time, we found that one of the peer’s attacks and the other takes the role of victim, and can at some point try to defend himself against the aggressor, but never managing to talk him out of it for a long time (Abrapia, 2006). Between peers.Hawkins, Pepler, and Craig (2001) found that peers were present in 88 percent of bullying episodes. Thus, bullying frequently involves the support of peers within the school community and is often not an isolated event between two individuals. Thus, bullying frequently involves the support of peers within the school community and is often not an isolated event between two individuals. To be more precise, when the bullying happens, we usually have a victim and some peers around her. Reversal roles. Thirdly, this continuity supported for the peer gives its author

This somewhat simple definition does not include the various dimensions of the phenomenon. In truth, “the investigation of bullying is further complicated by the complex dynamics of bullying scenarios and the developmental context for social development in which bullying plays a role” (DeVoe, Kaffenberger, & Chandler, 2005). For example, the conceptual separation between the social relations of violence and aggression that arise in human interactions spontaneously and the type associated with bullying are not yet very clear. “Further, aggression among youth often serves varied purposes for children at different stages of development” (DeVoe, Kaffenberger and Chandler, 2005). Therefore, it is necessary to make some clarifications, based on the existing literature. For the first feature we should know what is the type and degree of negativity and aggression. The definition of bullying, according to some authors, is a complex task, which goes beyond the mere physical and verbal aggression: it also covers psychological focused behaviours, for example manipulation. In a way, there will be an interaction that approaches the social aspects of the relation (Ericson, 2001).

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26 International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010

Figure 1. Forms of bullying more common

(the aggressor in this case) a sense of power and to the victim the image of “bad guy” (Abrapia, 2006; McCarthy, Sheehan, Wilkie, & Wilkie, 1996), or, in other words, provoking the circumstance (which is not true, as the instigator of the situation is the perpetrator). This is based on the logic of reversal roles between the aggressor and the victim, resulting in misjudgements of the situation by adults (see Palacios & Rego, 2006, p. 2). Thus, in most cases where the victim denounces the offender to an adult, it replied that it just happened “because you did something,” placing the responsibility of the situation on the victim and protecting the aggressor (Palacios & Rego, 2006, p. 2). When it does, the aggressor have literally the way open to continue to practice bullying and the victim is, and will continue to be the victim of the aggressor, the victim of indifference and insensitivity of adults who could help (Palacios & Rego, 2006, p. 2). And suffer doubly with it: on the one hand, suffers with the bullying infringed by the aggressor and on the other hand

feel indifference and lack of assistance from the adults who could help but didn’t. This can cause several depressions to the victim and lead to suicide, only for lack of help (Pinheiro, 2007). On the other hand, the aggressor, enjoying an additive sense of power and impunity, takes advantage of being seen as a victim and because of that continues to humiliate their peers. In fact, according to other authors, bullying behaviour emerges from the will of strength and power, becoming a popular person, bullying colleagues, showing them his superiority and terrorizing them (McCarthy, Sheehan, Wilkie, & Wilkie, 1996, p. 54). In other words, it becomes a repetitive situation that may be associated with an additive behaviour. Indirect bullying – Cyberbullying. Bored to practice bullying always the same way the bullie looks for new ways to do it. So, curious, he decides to try out new technologies to practice bullying because they are easy to access and use the know-how.

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International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010 27

In summary, bullying is a social phenomenon whose complexity can only be understood through the concepts of social theory. Some authors thought that the main aim of social sciences should be trying to understand the characteristics of links in its multiple and interdisciplinary nature (Latour, 2005; Bateson, 1955, 1989).

cHaracTerIzaTIon oF cyberbullyInG
Let us now see how, starting from the previous reflection, we characterize the emerging phenomenon of Cyberbullying. It will be convenient to make here a slight reflection on the definition of cyberbullying. Some people understand this phenomenon merely as the extension of school bullying. However, cyberbullying is something more complex and therefore is not limited simply to that. Nowadays, much of cyberbullying phenomena become popular as harassment, psychological pressure, verbal abuse, threats, theft of personal data and image manipulation through new technologies, especially computer with Internet access. This phenomenon has expanded throughout the world and quickly the media wake up to it. Increasingly well known to us, cyberbullying, name by which this issue is known in the U.S. and the UK is already the focus of studies and campaigns to prevent and combat it (Wikipedia, 2007). How did happen. However, contrary to popular belief, this phenomenon did not start with cell phone, much less the Internet. The cyberbullying, according to information obtained through the empirical part, have emerged from the social conjecture to the way we know it now. Chronologically, we can distinguish a gradual evolution of cyberbullying in three stages, each divided according to the technological resources employed in its practice.

We started by describing the genealogy of cyberbullying. In the first stage (1), the precyberbullying that was when the cyberbullying appeared and began to take form. This term (pre) is appropriate to the fact that at this stage, the technological resources used still can not be completely known by the prefix “cyber”, which is understandable since they are a photocopying and telephone. It was with a photocopying we reproduced and distributed many false images and text and / or insulting stories about the victims and the telephone was used to spend hours making anonymous calls to all the colleagues with whom he wanted to “enjoy”. But as the technologies are constantly developing, this phenomenon has evolved, entering the second stage (2): the cyberbullying. Adopting the name and the form for which it is known today. This fact arises with the emergence of mobile phones. With the 1st generation of mobile phones, cyberbullying starts happening through text messages. Fast and low cost, SMS are used to spread offensive stories quickly, and resulting in numerous waves of laughter through the corridors of classrooms where the victims went. Subsequently, with the mobile phones advance and with that starts emerging on the market the 2nd generation of mobile phones, equipped with camera. It was at this point that we began to prepare the ground for the third stage but the transition was not done yet. So, equipped with cameras, the cyberbullies began taking pictures to their victims as a hobby, usually during and after they are attacked. The photos then were used to show on the cell phone, because sending multimedia messages is more expensive than the text messages. The solution was for share the images on the Internet. However, there were few people who had access to them. Over time and with a few technological advances, the Internet turns into something well known to our young people. With the expansion of the Internet to schools entered the third stage (3) of this phenomenon, which now assumes the name of digital bullying. This designation is appropriate because it begins to be consummate principally through digital

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28 International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010

technologies such as the Internet. At this time, the photographs taken with mobile phones and digital cameras are now posted and distributed by e-mail. They also are created fake profiles with these photos. In the midst of this, mobile phones have a new development and there is the 3rd generation, with mobile phones equipped with a camcorder. This is where the bullying took the contours for which is today know it. In Figure 2 we can have a best view of this development: Basic definition. Once explained the emergence of the phenomenon under study, is now time to define it. We already know that cyberbullying had developmental periods and that is practiced with the new technologies, but what is it exactly? Bill Belsey (2005), professor in Cochrane, Alberta, who we think to have been the first person to use the term, defines cyberbullying as a variant of traditional bullying. Later, cyberbullying has been defined by the use of communication technologies and information to denigrate, humiliate and / or defame a person or a group of people. Currently practiced by email, phone, pager, personal websites, text messages, multimedia messages and videos, that the cyberbullying out

mainly on the Internet contributed to it transformation into a global problem more complex than traditional bullying (Wikipedia, 2007). Problems. However we have to note that not all persons identifying this phenomenon as cyberbullying, for what, for some it can be considered cyberbullying, for others it may be a simple case of defamation. Therefore, it is appropriate give a slight reflection on the definition of cyberbullying. Some people understand this phenomenon merely as the continuation of school bullying, however, cyberbullying is something more complex and therefore is not simply limited to this (Bateson, 1989). We conclude that the diffusion of defamatory messages and images and / or false about one or more individuals can be considered cyberbullying. But this raises some questions, specifically whether all occurrences would be cyberbullying. Let us examine this question. If we use an image found on Google or some other site with a photo of our profile, so as not to be recognized, this is not cyberbullying. It’s having a false identity. However, it is cyberbullying if the image in question was used intentionally to humiliate and / or defame the person who that image belongs. Finally, it should explain how we can distinguish cyberbullying of crimes

Figure 2. Evolution of the phenomenon: the 3 stages

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International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010 29

such as defamation.The answer is not simple. The cyberbullying are all acts premeditated and intentional, having or not to aware of the real extent of such an act on the victim (Belsey, 2005). Once on the Internet the characteristic of continuity does not equate, because if is not totally eliminated, it is continuous, so there don’t needs to be repeated by the same person (Mitchell, 2007). According to legal data in Portugal, defamation has the same characteristics, except that is something discontinuous. . However, defamation on the Internet can be understood as cyberbullying. Ways and degrees of intensity of Cyberbullying. After having defined the object of study we will analyze it by the features it presents. Analyzing, we observe that the cyberbullying have multiple characters (different from the bullying at school), specifically the graph (1), concerning about the use of the image, the verbal (2), referring to the use of language and the psychological (3), regarding the diffusion of false data about the victim. Analyzed the characteristics of cyberbullying and after the study of different types of cases found through the empirical work done, we can point to various levels of occurrence, namely three, depending of the type of case. The first level (1) is one in which only occurs cyberbullying. Only happens in the Internet and is practiced by insults, obscene messages, sexual comments and / or harassment by an exchange of e-mail and creating false profiles, usually several. The main characteristic of this type of defamation is that it is practiced spontaneously, with the only intention to humiliate the victim and to harass them. The second level (2) is the bullying more cyberbullying where the second is a continuation of the first. Not satisfied, the bullies using the new technologies, specifically the mobile phones and the Internet, for an innovation sending some text messages with stories about the victim. This type of behaviour is characterized by happen

consciously in order to frighten the victim and to enjoy seeing the reaction of the victim. Finally, the third level (3) is one in which resort to bullying to practice cyberbullying. Similar to the previous level but different, this type has two variations that are called “light” and “heavy.” The “light” is one in which to make a “mockery”, rather than simply take occasional photos, bullies attacks the victim in order to take these pictures and then allocated that pictures on multimedia messages or the Internet. On the other hand, we have the “heavy” when, as in the previous case, a victim is chosen but without the intention of taking pictures, but to film all aggression. In other words, in the “hard” version of cyberbullying type 3, a group of people reunited to harm anyone on purpose to be filmed and posted on Youtube almost like a “trophy.” We have here an example of the phenomenon of “happy slap”, much appreciated in the U.S. Having defined the types of cyberbullying that we may find ourselves, it’s time to look into the characteristics of those who practice it. The cyberbullies is the practitioner of cyberbullying, is distinguished into two groups: the accidental cyberbullies (1) and addicts (2). The accidental cyberbullies (1), are characterized by being those who use new technologies or to play (in a pejorative way) with a person or as a form of revenge. They are thus who, for example, creates a false personal page, exchange intimate images of someone with they group and expose stories in blogs. The cases of revenge following the end of a relationship are regularly like a police source said. But what distinguishes this type of addictive cyberbullying is that the accidental cyberbullies fails the notion of the effect of his act on the victim. In fact, the idea here is to be something now, passenger and with not other intentions than to “play” with the person in that moment. Then we have the most serious level, the addict cyberbullies (2). These are those who practice cyberbullying because its gives pleasure. This type of cyberbullying could be started by practice cyberbullying to try and see how it is, but sometime have experienced some kind of good feeling from this practice, and it became a habit. This type of cyberbul-

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30 International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010

lies runs personal pages as predators and as sexual predators, choose a victim, and pursue it until near exhaustion (Neves, 2008). Unlike predators, the addict cyberbullies do not look for physical pleasure, but for the psychological, as the feeling of control. The face to face relation and the mediated relation. In addition, gradually contributing to this is the fact that, contrary to what occurs when practicing bullying at school, on the Internet the face to face interaction does not equate, so we ended up doing things we would not do in a face to face interaction. New technologies facilitate the same to process a blur between reality and imagination. We often hear someone say, “is on the Internet, does not matter.” And we feel a transcendent freedom when plunged into the network. They are only avatars and nicknames. We can give free rein to imagination and not repress any kind of behaviour. We can insult someone in a virtual community without fear. After all, the worst scenario is to see our account disable, but what matters if it gave us a great pleasure insult that individual? We can always create a new account. We are free to do it. The truth is that the cyberbullies, the ones who practice cyberbullying, feel they will never be identified. Consequently the promise of anonymity offered by the Internet is a great engine for spreading this type of violence. However the promise of anonymity is not true, for is just that: a promise. All of us when we use the Internet are subjects of identification (each computer, each phone has a unique identification number). Furthermore, all things share on the Internet are impossible to be removed because they are exposed to an infinite audience, whose ability to absorb, transmit, share and change information is invaluable, which can lead cyberbullies to satisfaction (Correa, 2008).

THe need For a new ePISTemoloGy In THe STudy oF cyberbullyInG
Decided to study an emerging phenomenon with the use of the Internet and new technologies, we found in the theories of new media a starting point, since it seeks to describe the network of relations in space and time with the condition that an entity that provides communication is the actor. Focusing on the study of cyberbullying as an emerging phenomenon with the use of new technologies and covers communication processes, then we draw it to the need to formulate a new epistemology in the field of communication studies. This should then be characterized by the insertion of new media studies in the field of communication according to triad technology / communication / society and the link between theory and practice. In this sense we can highlight the empirical observation and correlation as key elements in the study of phenomena of new media, as is advocated Röhl (2005, p. 420), William Mitchell (in Correa, 2008), Neil Postman (in Correa, 2008) and Muniz Sodré (in Correa, 2008), since the production of knowledge in the new media equate in real life, making the immateriality of cyberspace and assigning the same condition of space electronic flow of communication and sociability in an logic, of neo-tribalism (Rabot, 2009). Several authors, inspired by the tradition of interpretive social sciences, such as José Luis Braga (2007) defend the premise that the production of knowledge in this field can not be similar to that used in the natural sciences, because it is necessary to interpret and create meaning. Since the communicational phenomena are not things in themselves closed and should be observed and studied on a case (Correa, 2008). Therefore, it becomes clear that it is through the association of meanings that we can produce knowledge. Therefore, it is now possible to delineate, with greater conceptual clarity, the epistemological model to follow in

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International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010 31

the study of phenomena of new media (Martins, 2006; Miranda, 2002; Neves, 2006). In this sense, according to Braga (2007), the epistemological model suggested in these cases should be characterized by: • • • • • The study of individual cases, The phenomena clues not immediately evident, For the distinction between essential and accidental signs, The link between the evidence and selected, For the derivation of inferences

That’s because the study of the phenomena of the new media is based on the triad situation empirical / theoretical / research problems. Being fruitful the union of knowledge gained through all areas of science, shaping them for the benefit of ongoing research, because communication is a process of cultural development. After all, as argued by Lev Manovitch (2003), social networking is polychronic and multidirectional.

THe conTrIbuTIon oF GreGory baTeSon: THe meTa-lanGuaGe and THe medIaTed relaTIon
Thus, it seemed appropriate to study the open question of research using the perspectives that are at the borders between sociology and the areas like animal biology, along the lines suggested by Bateson. As Bateson very well realised, the human and animal communication goes beyond verbosity and writing, as it is surrounded by gestures, facial and bodily expressions, tone of voice, melodies and vocal expressions different, the so-called meta-language or meta-communication. Thus, according to Bateson (1955), the meta-language is fundamental to understanding the real meaning of the action of another. Without her, we would lose an important part of the message. You could not understand a phrase like “You’re so crazy” is

ironic in the sense of humiliation or just a joke (Baptista, 2004). Carrying Bateson’s theory for the study of cyberbullying, which we see fit as there is a great lack of meta-communication through the use of new technologies compared to existing meta-communication regarding the face to face interaction, as in school bullying. Now if, as argued by Gregory Bateson (1955), the meta-language is necessary to understanding the true intentions of the human interaction, it means that in case of interaction through new technologies, we will be more difficult to interpret the action of other, since we are not face to face interacting. When we not do that, we didn’t observe the body language of others (in case of video calling you can not see the other as a whole, for example, the position of the feet, hands ticks, etc.) and many cases do not hear the tone (in case you hear the tone that we are subject to this being distorted), so that the meta-language is limited, so the interpretation of the action of another is partial too. In this regard, Bateson (1955) helps us understand why cyberbullying happens in some cases: misinterpretation of the meaning of the actions of another. Using the tables of interaction proposed by Bateson, highlights the ambiguity in communication between humans, then advocating the adoption of an interdisciplinary perspective including social psychology and sociology of communication.

reSulTS oF THe emPIrIcal STudy on younG PorTuGueSe unIVerSITy
Given that emergent phenomena are difficult to study, we adopted a research strategy combining qualitative and quantitative techniques that included observation, focus groups, interviews and investigation. Thus, in this study, whose aim is to explore and define the characteristics of cyberbullying in Portugal we have studied the behaviour of university students in terms of information, attitudes and beliefs. In this sense, the central question that arose in our study was

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32 International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010

to understand this new dependency as being a continuation of a typical phenomenon in human societies: the daily violence of social relations, which have additive effects. This was confirmed during the practical part, they were combined qualitative and quantitative techniques. We can see that despite the intensive use of new technologies, the majority of people show reduced levels of information about the problem (cyberbullying), about which many people had only vaguely heard on television. Despite the knowledge of the subject does not reveal directly to the type of use made of the Internet, the type of use is directly linked to the number of hours spent online per week. The longer we spend by week on the Internet, the greater the potential to come across cases of cyberbullying, which, because of the limited information that brings about the phenomenon, we can simply ignore by not knowing that it is cyberbullying. However, if we take into account the beliefs of our young people with regard to cyberbullying, imagine at the outset that ever practice something like this and that if faced with a case of these and knew identify, denounce the situation and try to help the victim. But is not the case: our young people actually show very good intentions (high levels of beliefs about the subject) but with regard to practical action it is not confirmed. According to research, university students tend to think one thing and doing another in relation to cyberbullying, showing that there is great ambiguity in how the phenomenon is viewed and practiced. The attitudes of young people, contrary to what would wait, are not consistent with their beliefs. In short, the investigation led us to the following main conclusions: • • • The university students have little information about the subject; Have attitudes of sympathy toward the bully behaviour; However, have very critical beliefs about cyberbullying showing ambiguity thus how they face the phenomenon.

One can perhaps say that agree with what essentially characterizes modern society: an increase of the ambiguity and its fleeting and ambiguous nature.

cloSInG remarkS
We left open the need for further studies on this subject without falling into an empirical linear and simplistic characterization, based on an approach that makes his genealogy and characterization of new patterns of (inter) human action. Some issues: the extent to which the form of cyberbullying does not oblige us to revise the classical categories of sociology that are based on the physical relation of face to face? The fact that many of these situations involve a contact that is mediated and simultaneously, without the presence of the physical body, can lead us to revise the schemes proposed by the classical scholars of the interaction as Erving Goffman (1986). Perhaps the use of the work of Gregory Bateson (1989), as mentioned above, is helpful in attempting to rethink the border areas between our animal heritage and ambiguous characteristics of human violence in the cyber society.

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34 International Journal of Technoethics, 1(3), 24-34, July-September 2010

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José Pinheiro Neves was born in Oporto (Portugal) in 1957, and he is graduated in Sociology in the “Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa”, Lisbon (Portugal). He has a Ph.D. from the University of Minho in 2005 about the technique at the present time: "Technical individuation in the actuality". Nowadays, he is a lecturer at the University of Minho (Portugal) and a researcher at the “Center of Research on Communication and Society” at the University of Minho. He published, in 2006, the book "The Appeal of Technical Object" based essentially on the work of Gilles Deleuze and Gilbert Simondon. He has several publications about the relationship between technique and social, the theory of actor-network, cyberbullying, and so on. More recently, Neves's research areas include new digital socio-technical networks. He is a member of the editorial boards of the journals “Communication and Society "and "Organizations and Work". Webpage: http://neves.paginas.sapo.pt Luzia de Oliveira Pinheiro was born in the city of Viana do Castelo (Portugal) in 1986, and she graduated in sociology at the University of Minho, Braga (Portugal). In 2009 completed a Masters in Sociology at the University of Minho (Portugal) with a dissertation about the phenomenon of cyberbullying among Portuguese university students. Recently she was awarded with a doctorate fellowship by FCT (Foundation for Science and Technology, Portugal) for the project "Cyberbullying and cyberstalking" in the area of Communication and Information (Reference: SFRH/BD/62013/2009). She has several publications about cyberbullying and bullying. She has also organized information campaigns in primary and secondary schools about bullying and cyberbullying. Webpage: http://sites.google.com/site/luziapinheiro1986/

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