Cyberbullying and Cyber Aggression in Young People: A Mixed Methods Study




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


Cyberbullying is a conceptually flawed term, with issues surrounding its definition and measurement. The term cyber aggression was formulated to overcome many of these issues and provide a new and more inclusive way to investigate online aggressive behaviours. However, since its introduction researchers have been using these terms inconsistently and interchangeably, creating an additional issue with distinguishing between the two concepts. As there is an absence of research to explore this conceptual confusion, this thesis aimed to investigate whether the same confusion was evident within adolescents and emerging adults. The current research adopted an exploratory sequential mixed method design to further explore cyberbullying and cyber aggression by placing a greater emphasis on the initial qualitative phase to explore the phenomena of interest, and for the results of which to be used to guide the sequential phases. In accordance with this mixed methods design, this thesis has a three-phase design. Phase one included two focus group studies, that were conducted to explore the perceptions of cyberbullying and cyber aggression in adolescents and emerging adults. The key themes that were identified within each of these studies were built upon in the subsequent two phases. Within phase two, the focus group findings were used develop two scales. The Cyber Aggression on Social Media (CASM) scale was constructed to measure cyber aggression victimisation and perpetration. Within phase two, an additional novel scale was developed, the Cyberbullying and Cyber Aggression Knowledge Scale (CBCAK), to quantitatively measure participants knowledge and ability to distinguish between cyberbullying and cyber aggression. This phase also aimed to validate and the assess the psychometric properties of the CASM scale and pilot the CBCAK scale in emerging adults. The third and final phase aimed to further expand upon the focus group findings and to use the two newly developed scales to measure emerging adults’ knowledge of cyberbullying and cyber aggression, and to investigate whether social media related measures could predict cyber aggression. This phase also included three open-ended questions to further explore cyber aggression support and education that were thematically analysed.

The findings of this thesis suggest that cyberbullying and cyber aggression are not only conceptually blurred within the literature, but confusion is also evident amongst young people. The participants found it difficult to distinguish between cyberbullying and cyber aggression and would often over characterise behaviours as cyberbullying. A lack of education and support targeted at emerging adults at university was another consistent finding throughout this thesis. The results also suggest that sufficient education and support should be made an importance within university services to help emerging adults to identify and better understand the wide range of aggressive behaviours online, in addition to providing advice around reporting and dealing with such behaviours. This was recommended to be implemented alongside adequate support avenues within universities to those who have experienced acts of cyber aggression.





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