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Gabriela Hernández

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Students from Highlands’ Farmington Center Conduct Research on Cyberbullying

Psychology students at New Mexico Highlands University’s Farmington Center conducted a pilot research study this semester about cyberbullying.

The students will present their findings at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association convention in April.

Three students in psychology professor Ron Salazar’s research methods class wrote a survey to gauge teenagers’ experiences with cyberbullying. The sample group was recent high school graduates from San Juan County who are enrolled in introductory psychology courses at San Juan College.  

“Cyberbullying by teenagers is a serious and growing national problem that’s everywhere, from rural areas to cities,” Salazar said. “All that’s needed is access to the Internet and texting capability.”

The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyberbullying as e-mailing, instant messaging, text messaging, and defamatory personal Web sites used to threaten, embarrass, and ostracize peers. According to the council’s research data, up to 43 percent of teenagers in the United Sates were victims of cyberbullying last year. A Pew Institute study found 32 percent of teens were cyberbullied.

“With this research methods class I try to get my students’ feet wet in research and apply it to real-world situations,” said Salazar, who helped establish the psychology degree program at the Highlands’ Farmington Center three years ago and is also a full professor at San Juan College.

 “One of the most significant findings of this pilot study is that in the majority of cases, survey respondents said the cyberbullying took place on social networking Web sites like Facebook and MySpace,” Salazar said. “For example, blogs were posted ranging from negative comments about a teen’s appearance to false information about sexual orientation. Overall, 21 percent of the students reported being cyberbullied as teens, which is lower than the national numbers.”

Salazar said another important finding was that 70 percent of the students surveyed believe cyberbullying is on the rise. He said he’d like to see his students gather more data about cyberbullying in the future via online surveys given to New Mexico university and college students.

Anna Zepeda is one of the Highlands University students who worked on the cyberbullying pilot study. She’ll graduate in May with a major in psychology and a minor in sociology.
“We were surprised at how common cyberbullying is,” Zepeda said. “The three of us who worked on the study graduated from high school in the mid 1990s. This wasn’t an issue then because social networking sites didn’t exist.  It’s amazing – and disturbing – how much things have changed. It was interesting to learn that girls are much more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than boys. 

“You hear about studies all the time but you don’t know what’s involved,” Zepeda said. I learned a lot about conducting research from beginning to end. It’s really exciting that our first research project was approved for presentation at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association Convention.” 

Students in Salazar’s research methods class this semester also completed a study measuring San Juan College students’ opinions about red light cameras. The study found that more than half of the students surveyed supported red lights cameras in Farmington.

Highlands University’s Farmington Center offers degree programs in partnership with San Juan College at the college’s Farmington campus.

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