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Cyberbullying Among University Students


Cyberbullying refers to the application of electronic media to victimize a person mostly by sending intimidating images or messages. Research indicates that low self-esteem, gender, and depression are among the factors associated with cyberbullying. Poor academic performance may also contribute to an individual engaging in cyberbullying. A majority of the students who are victims of cyberbullying report the incident to their parents or friends. Many students avoid reporting the event to teachers. Most studies do not focus on cyberbullying characters amid university students. However, researchers indicate that internet self-efficacy and victimization experience result in individuals perpetrating cyberbullying. Alcohol use, cigarette smoking, and substance abuse lead to people committing or being victims of cyberbullying. Sexual orientation also affects one’s susceptibility to bullying. Nonheterosexuals, especially men are at a high risk of being victims of cyberbullying.

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Technology advancement has made it possible for young people to intimidate one another away from school grounds and without being in physical proximity. According to Yang et al. (2013), bullies use computers and cell phones to intimidate victims without minding the repercussions of their actions. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying enables teenagers to threaten their colleagues from multiple locations. The increase in accessibility and popularity of the internet has resulted in a high number of youths and adults falling victim to cyberbullying.

Determinants of Traditional and Cyberbullying

According to Yang et al. (2013), numerous factors are associated with traditional and cyberbullying. They include low self-esteem, depression, and gender. Yang et al. (2013) claim that individuals who perform poorly in academics and suffer from depression are likely to perpetrate traditional bullying. Moreover, persons who previously engaged in traditional bullying are likely to commit cyberbullying. The researchers allege that the nature of a family contributes to one being a victim or architect of traditional and cyberbullying. Individuals brought up by single mothers are at a high risk of being perpetrators or victims of traditional bullying. They are also vulnerable to cyberbullying. People with high attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are liable for engaging in traditional bullying or falling victims of the same. Yang et al. (2013) allege that male students who perform poorly in class are at a high risk of perpetrating and falling victims of cyberbullying.

Students’ Understanding and Reaction to Cyberbullying

According to Holfeld and Grabe (2012), the susceptibility to cyberbullying varies based on “gender, the frequency of internet use, and involvement in traditional bullying” (p. 397). Young people who spend a lot of time on the internet are prone to cyberbullying. Additionally, individuals who were architects of traditional bullying are likely to perpetrate cyberbullying. Currently, there is no accurate information regarding the gender difference amid cyberbullies or victims of cyberbullying. Holfeld and Grabe (2012) allege that the majority of students who are victims of cyberbullying report the incident to their colleagues and parents. Surprisingly, the students do not report the issue to their teachers despite believing that they can be of significant help. Holfeld and Grabe (2012) suppose that one of the reasons why students are reluctant to report the incidence to teachers is their reputation. Students with weak characters at school allege that “teachers may be less likely to believe them when they come forward with critical information” (Holfeld & Grabe, 2012, p. 408).

Cyber Bullying Amid University Students

The majority of the research in cyberbullying focuses on children and youths. Researchers do not pay attention to cyberbullying among university students. Xiao and Wong (2013) maintain that environmental and personal factors contribute to university students engaging in cyberbullying. In line with the social cognitive theory, the researchers allege that Internet self-efficacy contributes to individuals exhibiting cyberbullying characters. University students with experience in how to use the internet are likely to perpetrate cyberbullying. According to Xiao and Wong (2013), the majority of university students who are victims of cyberbullying are vulnerable to perpetuating the vice. Additionally, exposure to violence leads to university students perpetrating cyberbullying and other aggressive behaviors.

Relationship between Cyberbullying and Substance Abuse

Chan and Greca (2016) allege that there is a correlation between substance abuse and peer victimization. They assert that youths who engage in substance abuse are likely to perpetrate cyberbullying. Research suggests that there is a relationship between widespread addiction, binge drinking, and cyber victimization among high school students. Youths aged below 18 who use marijuana and alcohol engage in cyberbullying. Individuals who take alcohol are likely to harass their colleagues via the internet. On the other hand, youths who use marijuana, tobacco, and inhalants are prone to committing sexual harassment. The study by Chan and Greca (2016) found that the majority of the youths who perpetrated cyberbullying were involved in alcohol and cigarette use. The researchers suggested further research to determine the factors behind the correlations between violence and substance abuse.

Sexuality and Cyberbullying

Limited studies investigate the relationship between cyberbullying and sexual orientation. Nonheterosexual teenagers are at a high risk of being victims of traditional bullying. Similarly, they are susceptible to cyber victimization. Wensley and Campbell (2012) allege that there is an association between sexuality and cyberbullying. Individuals who do not declare their sexual orientation explicitly are at a high risk of being victims of cyber victimization. Wensley and Campbell (2012) allege, “The rates of cyber victimization are more elevated in nonheterosexual than in heterosexual men” (p. 652). Nevertheless, the same does not apply to female nonheterosexuals. The degree of cyberbullying among women depends on the rate of internet use. Women who spend a lot of time on the internet are likely to be victims of cyberbullying. Wensley and Campbell (2012) allege that sexuality does not influence the perpetration of cyberbullying. The rates of “cyberbullying perpetration do not differ with the sexuality of either men or women” (p. 652). The researchers suggest further studies to determine the connection between sexuality and perpetration of cyber victimization.

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Annotated Bibliography

Chan, S., & Greca, A. (2016). Cyber victimization and aggression: Are they linked with adolescent smoking and drinking? Child Youth Care Forum, 45(1), 47-63.

Chan and Greca investigated the connection between cyberbullying and substance abuse among teenagers. Research attributes peer victimization to substance abuse among young people. Nevertheless, limited studies have analyzed the relationship between cyberbullying and addiction. Chan and Greca concluded that cyber aggression and victimization occur as a result of alcohol and cigarette use. They found that the majority of perpetrators of cyberbullying indulge in substance abuse. The research confirmed the public perception that cyberbullies work under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The researchers recommended further studies to determine the particular factors that contribute to the link between substance use and violence.

Holfeld, B., & Grabe, M. (2012). Middle school students’ perception of and responses to cyberbullying. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 46(4), 395-413.

Holfeld and Grabe investigated the nature and degree of cyberbullying experience among middle school students. They discovered that about 64% of the learners reported incidences of cyberbullying to their colleagues or parents. Female students were more prone to cyberbullying than male learners. Most students were reluctant to inform their teachers about the incidents. The study found that parents and peers were not successful in helping victims of cyberbullying. It highlighted the need for a concerted effort between the parents, school administrations, and peers in assisting victims of cyberbullying.

Wensley, K., & Campbell, M. (2012). Heterosexual and nonheterosexual young university students’ involvement in traditional and cyber forms of bullying. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(12), 649-655.

Wensley and Campbell maintain that students who do not declare their sexual orientation are at a high risk of being victims of traditional and cyberbullying. Nonheterosexuals, especially men are susceptible to cyberbullying. However, there is no correlation between individuals’ sexual orientation and perpetration of cyberbullying. Wensley and Campbell’s research highlights the need to introduce bullying interventions in tertiary institutions and to pay attention to nonheterosexual learners.

Xiao, B., & Wong, Y. (2013). Cyber-bullying among university students: An empirical investigation from the social cognitive perspective. International Journal of Business and Information, 8(1), 34-69.

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Xiao and Wong allege that a majority of the current studies on cyberbullying focus on children and teenagers and do not rely on a strong theoretical foundation. Limited research focuses on cyberbullying among university students. Insights from the social cognitive theory suggest that environmental and personal factors contribute to university students perpetrating cyberbullying. Internet self-efficacy, cyberbullying experience, and motivations are among the factors that lead to college students exhibiting cyberbullying behaviors. The study augments people’s knowledge about the predictors of cyberbullying among university students.

Yang, S., Stewart, R., Kim, J., Kim, S., Shin, I., Dewey, M., … Yoon, J. (2013). Differences in predictors of traditional and cyber-bullying: A 2-year longitudinal study in Korean school children. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 22(1), 309-318.

According to Yang et al., limited studies have investigated the phenomenon of cyberbullying. Thus, the researchers sought to analyze the psychological and environmental factors that influence traditional and cyberbullying. Their study found that depressive signs and male gender were connected to both general and cyberbullying behaviors. Moreover, individuals raised by single mothers were likely to perpetuate traditional bullying. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was attributed to cyberbullying victimization. Yang et al. found that poor academic performance and low self-esteem contributed to cyberbullying victimization and perpetration. Anxiety led to children perpetrating cyberbullying.

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