In this monthly interview series, we turn the spotlight on members of the academic community and the important research they do — as partners, collaborators, consultants, and independent contributors.
For April, we nominated an academic duo: Sameer Hinduja (Florida Atlantic University) and Justin Patchin (University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire) of the Cyberbullying Research Center, which they created as a one-stop-shop for the most recent research on cyberbullying among adolescents. Patchin and Hinduja are top industry consultants, and they provide valuable insights that better inform our content policies. In this Q&A, they share more about their background, the formation of the Cyberbullying Research Center, their contributions to Facebook and Instagram, and their current academic research.
Q: Tell us about your backgrounds in academia.
A: We both earned master’s and doctoral degrees in criminal justice from Michigan State University. Upon entering graduate school, Sameer was interested in emerging crime issues related to technology and Justin was interested in school violence and juvenile delinquency. When we observed adolescent behaviors online, we noticed bullying occurring among this population. We started systematically studying cyberbullying and quickly learned that it was affecting young people. Using data from thousands of youths over the last two decades, we’ve been able to contribute evidence-based insights about the experiences of youths online. Thankfully, it isn’t all bad! But we use results from our research to advise teens, parents, and others about safe online practices.
Q: How did the Cyberbullying Research Center form?
A: The Cyberbullying Research Center formed from our interest in studying cyberbullying behaviors, but also in more quickly disseminating information from our research to those who could benefit from it (parents, educators, youths). We wanted a platform where we could post timely results from our studies, in the form of blog posts, research briefs, and fact sheets. We still write academic journal articles and books, but we also want to produce resources that are more easily accessible to everyone. We wanted to create a one-stop-shop people could turn to for reliable information on youth cyberbullying and other online problems.
Q: How have you contributed your expertise to Facebook and Instagram?
A: Part of our mission as action researchers is to help people prevent and more adequately respond to cyberbullying and other problematic online behaviors among adolescents. This includes working with industry partners, like Facebook, to keep them up-to-date on the latest research and help inform their policies and practices concerning inappropriate behaviors. We are also trusted partners for Facebook and Instagram, so we are able to help flag abusive content on these platforms more quickly. We also routinely walk people who use these platforms through how to deal with problematic content on the apps so that they can have positive experiences. Sometimes it can be challenging navigating all the settings and reporting features, and we know these pretty well.
Q: What have you been working on lately?
A: We recently completed a study of tween cyberbullying for Cartoon Network and are currently planning to collect more data very soon on teen cyberbullying in the United States to see whether behaviors have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to write academic articles and are in the early stages of our next book. Finally, we continue to discuss various current events and issues at the intersection of youth and social media on our blog, and we regularly create new resources for youths and youth-serving adults to use.
Q: Where can people learn more about your work?
A: You can read about our research on our website or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @cyberbullyingresearch.