A study which aims to better understand teenagers’ experiences of cyberbullying is being launched at Nottingham Trent University. Cyberbullying and victimisation is on the increase – with most young people having experienced it at some point – and the researchers want to know more about how it is being carried out and the reasons behind it.
Cyberbullying among teenagers has risen alongside increased access to digital technologies and involves sending or posting comments and images which are hurtful, spiteful, inappropriate or threatening.
It occurs across a range of technologies, including text messages, emails, social networking sites, internet chat rooms and online games, although it is not clear exactly how these different platforms are being used.
The new study, being funded by the British Academy, will involve holding focus groups with young people, their parents and teachers, to get an insight into what exactly they consider cyberbullying and victimisation to be. Based on these findings the researchers will develop a questionnaire which will be sent to secondary school pupils across the country to assess their own experiences.
This will include questions around personal experiences and awareness of cyberbullying and cover issues such as the various technologies teenagers use and the amount of time they spend online. The project will also examine potential links between cyberbullying and victimisation and individuals’ self-esteem, levels of trust, popularity and engagement at school.
Unlike face-to-face bullying, the identity of the cyber bully is often unknown. Interactions can happen at any time – not just at school or in other physical locations – and the comments can remain visible for some time, allowing them to be seen time and time again.
“Increasing digitisation has led to growing concern over the effect this is having on the prevalence of cyberbullying and cyber victimisation,” said Dr Lucy Betts, lead researcher and senior lecturer in psychology.
She said: “This is a relatively new phenomena, but cases are on the rise and work needs to be done to learn more about it before it becomes much worse. It’s really important that we are able to understand how it is happening and why it is happening in order to look at developing new approaches to address the problem.”