Covert bullying, a less direct form or ‘hidden’ bullying, is arguably becoming quite prevalent and insidious among students, as a result of the implementation of improved school policies to deal with overt bullying, and with the advent of new forms of information and communication technology (ICT).
Today, the digital media revolution is providing young people with an extra platform and communication culture upon which covert bullying can operate. Consequently, school students have the ability to access a highly connected world through the web and evolve into frequent and sophisticated users of modern information and communication technologies, including computers and smart devices. (Bamford, 2005)
Nevertheless, the anonymous virtual nature of these technological means, the lack of central control, and limitations for monitoring and supervising its use, has enabled adolescents to adopt a new and pervasive form of covert aggression, known as ‘cyberbullying’, in which the location, actors, language and gestures of face-to face bullying have evolved and moved into the virtual world.
Despite that bullying by physical violence can only be threatened, not conducted, by technology, evidence indicates that verbal and psychological bullying can have a more negative long-term effect (Reid, Monsen, & Rivers, 2004), since through this virtual form of ‘’covert’’ bullying, a much wider audience is being made aware of the incident than in would in the case of overt bullying.
In response to the emerging growth of this cloaked type of harassment, there is an apparent need for school administrators and educational departments to revise their existing policies, action plans, and training programs, in order to effectively raise awareness of the means through which the social-cognitive skills of certain aggressive students are being used to ‘invisibly’ manipulate a whole group against the few. Young people need to be provided with the comprehensive understanding of group behaviour and change, and the appropriate knowledge/ability to engage in low levels of identity deception in order to protect their public image.