Cyberbullying Perpetration in Tertiary Students

Authors: Helen Lianos and Dr Andrew McGrath..

Cyberbullying perpetration has been researched extensively in adolescent samples, however data in young adult tertiary students is scarce. This study explored variables which predict cyberbullying perpetration defined as, the use of technology at least once to intentionally harm another who has difficulty defending themselves.

This quantitative study utilised a cross-sectional analysis of 320 international tertiary students’ self-reported data, collected via an online questionnaire. The final sample included 192 males (60%) and 128 females (40%), aged between 18 and 30 (M = 22.07, SD = 2.75).

A high prevalence of cyberbullying perpetration was found in this sample, with 11% engaging in this behaviour only once and 72% of participants engaging in this behaviour on two or more occasions. Individuals with low self-control, greater association with peers who engage in cyber-deviant acts, and greater time spent per week on social networking sites were more likely to engage in cyberbullying perpetration. As self-control became lower and more than 2 hours per week were spent on social networking sites, the likelihood of cyberbullying perpetration increased. Those with greater strain from prior traditional bullying, cyberbullying, lack of social support, academic, or financial stressors were more likely to be cyberbullying perpetrators. Strain from these factors also increased the likelihood that individuals experienced situational anger. Finally, those who responded to strain were more likely to feel greater situational anger and this anger was more likely to result in greater cyberbullying perpetration.

Cyberbullying perpetration is harmful, making it alarming that the prevalence found in this under-researched group of tertiary students so high. Several factors were found to make cyberbullying perpetration more likely, and can inform those who seek to limit the behaviour. There is justification for instituting measures on social networking sites to educate users about appropriate conduct, given that those with low self-control using such sites are more likely to cyberbully. In addition, the finding that strain may lead to anger and subsequent cyberbullying perpetration, underscores the importance of helping young adults deal with such pressures constructively, and the vital role of emotional regulation skills in decreasing cyberbullying perpetration.

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