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UNI Cyber Bullying Study

UNI Cyber Bullying Study

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Published by: GazetteOnline on May 17, 2011
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This study investigated the prevalence of cyberbullying amongst collegeage students, their moral judgments about it, and their knowledge of internet privacy related to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is, ³any type of harassment or bullying (teasing, telling lies, making fun of someone, making rude or mean comments, spreading rumors, or making threatening or aggressive comments) that occurs through e-mail, chat room, instant messaging, a website (including blogs), or text messaging´ (Hertz & David-Ferdon, 2008, p.5). Students from the University of Northern Iowa received credit in their introductory psychology classes to participate in the study. Each participant filled out a self-report survey on cyberbullying including questions about their experiences as victims, violators, and/or observers; how they responded to cyberbullying incidents; their knowledge of internet privacy; and their moral judgments about hypothetical cyberbullying incidents. Results show 55.9% were victims, 33.1% were violators, and 84.0% were observers in cyberbullying incidents during high school or college. Internet privacy knowledge showed a significant relationship with the role of observer, but showed no relationship to being either a victim or violator.

Cyberbullying Among College Students
Rohlf, K. A., Thiruselvam, I., Anthony, J. N., & Lynch, A. B. Advisor: Carolyn Hildebrandt, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology University of Northern Iowa

General Prevalence: ‡ Results showed 55.9% were victims, 33.1% were violators, and 84.0% were observers ‡There was no significant difference between males and females in their role in cyberbullying (See Figure 1 for results of Chi-square analysis) ‡The highest number of victims (45.4%) and violators (20.2%) were in acts involving sending harmful messages; the highest number of observers (54.9%) were of acts involving sending personal information or images. The majority of observers reported ignoring cyberbullying acts. Internet Privacy Knowledge: ‡Internet privacy knowledge was significantly associated with the role of observer, but showed no relationship to being either a victim or violator (See Table 1 for results of t-test analysis) Table 1 Means (Standard Deviations) of Internet Privacy Knowledge and Role in Cyberbullying

‡Fake Identity: Becky creates a Facebook account. She says she is a 19-year-old boy named ³Jack´ and adds a 15-year-old girl named Leah, a classmate from her school, as a Facebook friend. Becky chats with Leah pretending to be her alternate identitiy ³Jack´ and eventually leads Leah to believe that she and ³Jack´ are dating. Then ³Jack´ breaks up with Leah. (Victim¶s reaction is systematically varied.) ‡Song: Josh and Lindsey had a bad break up after dating for three months. Josh is in a band called the Comets and he recently wrote a mean song about his breakup with Lindsey. Josh posts a video on YouTube in which he is singing the song without her name in it. (Victim¶s reaction is systematically varied.) ‡Blog: While hanging out with some friends after school, Matt decides to post a list on his blog labeled ³most attractive´ in which he places all of the girls in his class in order from most attractive to least attractive. Beth is one of the girls on the bottom of the list. (Victim¶s reaction is systematically varied.)

As technology changes and Internet use grows, cyberbullying is becoming a concern for both educators and parents. Cyberbullying research is a growing area among psychologists and educators as more investigations are conducted on the prevalence of cyberbullying, the ways in which cyberbullying occurs, and educational measures to prevent it. Studies vary on prevalence rates of both cyberbullying victims and violators. Previous research at the college level found 34% of students were victims of cyberbullying, 19% were violators in cyberbullying incidents, and 64% of students have observed cyberbullying (Kurt et al., 2010). A significantly greater percentage of men were observers, and a significantly greater percentage of women were victims; there were no gender differences in the occurrence of being violators in cyberbullying incidents. Few studies have looked at the role internet privacy knowledge plays in one¶s role as a cyberbullying victim, violator, or observer. Ybarra and Mitchell (2004) found 54% of cyberbullying violators to be internet experts. Some studies have examined internet privacy knowledge to determine if children know how safe their information is on the internet from internet predators. Kite, Gable, and Filippelli (2010) argue that 63% of children do not understand the risk of internet predators, but do argue that cyberbullying may be a larger issue to consider. Finally, Kurt et al. (2010) examined the moral judgments students made about hypothetical cyberbullying scenarios. Participants moral judgments about hypothetical scenarios were found to vary across different scenarios and consequences. Purpose: This study aims to add to existing literature by investigating ‡The prevalence of cyberbullying in college age students ‡The relationship between internet privacy knowledge and one s role as a victim, violator, or observer in cyberbullying ‡Moral judgments about hypothetical cyberbullying scenarios where consequences to the victim (i.e., victim responses) were systematically varied.

Figure 1 Percentages of Victims, Violators, and Observers






Cohen d

‡ Prevalence rates of cyberbullying are greater than previous studies of both high school and college students. Ninety-five percent of students believe that there is cyberbullying occurring at UNI. ‡ Gender differences in cyberbullying were not significant, as previous research has suggested.


26.47 (3.73)

25.17 (4.70)




‡ Internet privacy knowledge was not significantly related to one¶s role as a violator, as found by Ybarra and Mitchell (2004). ‡ Internet privacy knowledge was significantly related only to one¶s role as an observer. This may be because persons who have more Internet privacy knowledge are likely using the Internet more and have more possibilities of seeing cyberbullying. Limitations:


26.42 (3.60)

25.64 (4.53)





26.10 (4.10)

22.71 (5.77)




‡ Sample consisted of mostly freshmen and Caucasian students and therefore is not representative of the general student population. ‡ Cyberbullying measures were limited to five acts: sending harmful messages via text or social networking sites; posting cruel gossip, rumors, or other harmful material online; creating a fake profile and using it to post material that could hurt or damage someone s reputation; sending personal information or images of any kind online without permission ; and being excluded by an online group with negative intentions. Implications for Education: ‡ Cyberbullying is prevalent amongst college students. More efforts to educate and raise awareness are need to address this problem. Considerations for educators include exploring cyberbullying prevention policies, collaborating to develop new policies, attending training sessions on electronic aggression, talking to students, working with Information Technology staff, learning how to create a positive campus atmosphere, and to have a plan in place if an incident were to happen (Hertz and David-Ferdon, 2008) ‡ Bystander education, such as the Mentors in Violence Prevetion (MVP) program, should be made more widely available.

Frequencies and Percentages of Moral Judgments Across Consequences of Hypothetical Scenarios: ‡ Moral judgments of hypothetical scenarios were not based solely on the consequences in the blog and fake identity scenarios; however, in the song scenario if the victim attempted suicide, participants were more likely to judge the act as ³not okay´ and ³cyberbullying´ than if the victim retaliated or ignored it. (See Table 2 for results of Chi-square analysis) ‡ In the song scenario, participants cited freedom of speech, common practice among artists, and/or the absence of the victim s name in the song as reasons why the act was not cyberbullying.

Participants: ‡165 students (74 males, 90 females) from UNI received credit in their introductory psychology classes to participate in the study. A majority of the sample were freshmen and Caucasian. Seventy-six percent were freshmen and 89% were Caucasian and 99% were Facebook users Key Materials: ‡Questionnaire pertaining to cyberbullying prevalence, students personal experiences with specific types of cyberbullying, and how they responded to it ‡Questionnaire pertaining to internet privacy knowledge ‡Three hypothetical cyberbullying scenarios followed by questions to examine students moral judgments (e.g. Was it okay for the protagonist to ________? Why/why not? Would you consider this cyberbullying? Why/why not?) For each scenario, victim responses were systematically varied (threatened suicide, retaliated, ignored) Procedure: ‡Participants were administered the cyberbullying questionnaire, Internet privacy survey, and three different hypothetical scenarios with consequence to the victim counter-balanced between subjects. Analysis: ‡Descriptive statistics, chi-square, and independent sample t-tests

Table 2 Frequencies (Percentages) of Moral Judgments Across Consequences of Hypothetical Scenarios
Suicide Yes Fake Identity Okay Cyberbullying 0 (0.0) 55 (96.5) 57 (100) 2 (3.5) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 2 (3.7) 47 (87.0) 52 (96.3) 7 (13.0) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 2 (3.8) 47 (89.0) 51 (96.2) 6 (11.3) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 2.19 0.34 2 164 No Both Yes Retaliation No Both Yes Ignore No Both Chisquare Value p df n

Directions for Future Research:
3.43 0.18 2 164

‡ Investigate prevalence of cyberbullying amongst middle and high school students in Cedar Falls/Waterloo ‡ Compare Internet privacy knowledge of students, parents, and teachers

Song Okay 36 (66.7) 18 (33.3) 17 (31.5) 34 (63.0) 1 (1.9) 2 (3.7) 52 (94.5) 4 (7.3) 3 (5.5) 50 (90.9) 0 (0.0) 1 (1.8) 51 (94.4) 1 (1.9) 2 (3.7) 52 (96.3) 1 (1.9) 1 (1.9) 23.71 0.00 4 163

‡ Continue systematic study of adolescent and young adults judgments about cyberbullying


Cyberbullying Blog Okay





Hertz, M. F., & David-Ferdon, C. (2008). Electronic media and youth violence: A CDC issue brief for educators and caregivers. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/EA-brief-a.pdf Kite, S. L., Gable, R., & Filippelli, L. (2010). Assessing middle school students¶ knowledge of conduct and consequences and their behaviors regarding the use of social networking sites. The Clearing House, 83, 158-163. doi: 10.1080/00098650903505365 Kurt, A. E., Thiruselvam, I. B., Berner, S. L., Cole, A. J., Herrington, J. M., Rohlf, K. M., & Hulné, A. A. (2010). Cyberbullying. CSBS Conference, University of Northern Iowa Ybarra, M. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2004). Youth engaging in online harassment: Associations with caregiver-child relationships, Internet use, and personal characteristics. Journal of Adolescence, 27,319336.doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2004.03.007

4 (7.4) 47 (87.0)

49 (90.7) 7 (13.0)

1 (1.9) 0 (0.0)

9 (17.0) 46 (86.8)

44 (83) 7 (13.2)

0 (0.0) 0 (0.0)

7 (12.3) 48 (84.2)

50 (87.7) 9 (15.8)

0 (0.0) 0 (0.0)










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