Cyber Bullying Among Teens

Journal of Bullying and Social Aggression

Volume 1, Number 1, 2015

An Examination of Cyber-bullying and Social Media Use in Teens: Prevalence, Attitudes
and Behaviors
Martha Mendez-Baldwin
Krista Cirillo
Matthew Ferrigno
Victoria Argento

Manhattan College

This study examined the prevalence of cyber-bullying and attitudes and behaviors related
to cyber-bullying among 359 adolescents. Experience with cyber-bullying and the
likelihood of sharing the experiences with parents, teachers, and other adults were
examined. Information on usage of technology and social media was also examined.
Results demonstrate that the participants spend an average of 3 hours a day on their
computer, tablet, or smartphone for things other than schoolwork; and that most use 2 or
more social media sites. Results revealed a significant relationship between the number
of social networks used and the amount of cyber-bullying they have experienced or been
exposed to. Furthermore, results demonstrate that parents are key factors in their teens’
experience and exposure to cyber-bullying.

An Examination of Cyber-bullying and Social Media Use in Teens: Prevalence, Attitudes and Behaviors

Cyber-bullying involves using technology, cell phones, and the Internet, to bully
someone (Olweus, 1993). Cyber-bullying can lead to anxiety, depression, and even
suicide. In 2004, i-Safe Inc. surveyed 1500 4-8th graders to learn about the prevalence of
cyber-bullying among young teens. Results show that over half of young adolescents
have been bullied online and about the same number have engaged in cyber-bullying.
Furthermore, 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber-bullying. Parents play a key
role in cyber-bullying prevention.   The purpose of this study was to gather information
on the prevalence of cyber-bullying and attitudes and behaviors related to cyber-bullying
among high school students. The researchers sought to gain information on the
participants’ experiences with cyber-bullying, as well as the ability to communicate these
experiences with parents, teachers, and other adults. Furthermore, the study also
gathered information on teen usage of technology and social media. Bauman and Newman (2013) studied the idea that cyber-bullying may have agreater effect on a person rather than traditional bullying. There were 588 students that participated in this study, (76% female) and (24% male). The ages ranged from 17 to 25
and all participants were either freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors. Every participant was found through an online system. The participants did not know that the researchers were studying cyber-bullying; they were told that they were part of a study about social attitudes. The researchers distributed a questionnaire describing hypothetical experiences for both traditional bullying and cyber-bullying. After the participants read over the scenarios, they had to rate how upset they felt on a scale of 1 to 7.

The findings of this study expressed the idea that it did not matter if someone was being bullied online
or in person, it depended on the type of situation the person was in. Even though cyber-bullying was not more harmful than traditional bullying it is still a big problem in society. The Internet gives bullies more of a chance to harass their victims wherever they go. Smith, Carvalho, Fisher, Russell, and Tippett (2008) researched both traditional methods of bullying and cyber-bullying. The researchers conducted two separate studies
in which surveys were administered to the students. Focus groups comprised of researchers and students were then used to supplement the two studies. In study one, 14.1% of students reported experiencing general bullying often, and 6.6% reported experiencing cyber-bullying often. The focus groups were skeptical of these results believing that experiences with bullying were between 67-100%. Many students responded by saying that other students would not admit to it, and that they would feel threatened if they told. Study two revealed that 13.5% of students were bullied in the last week or month, and 5.3% were cyber-bullied during this time frame. Study two also revealed that 99% of students use the Internet, revealing the greater opportunity for cyber-bullying to occur. Of the students who were cyber-bullied in study one, 56.5% reported that the cyber-bullying lasted 1 to 2 weeks, 18.8% reported it lasting a month, and 10.1% revealed that it lasted several years. In the focus groups, when asked how to stop bullying, many students recommended telling (e.g. ‘talk to someone trustworthy’, ‘always tell an adult’).

The results of study two supported the responses given in the focus group. In relation to cyber-bullying, 74.9% responded that ‘blocking messages/identities’ is a good way to prevent cyber-bullying, followed by 63.3% of students who responded that ‘telling someone (parent/teacher)’ is a good method. Holfeld and Grabe (2012) also examined the issue of cyber-bullying. As the years go on the use of the Internet seems to be increasing, giving bullies more opportunities to harass other individuals even off school property. This study focused on how cyber-bullying affects middle school students as well as how the participants respond to this type of bullying. There were 655 middle school students (325 male and 335 female). All of these participants were from Manitoba and North Dakota. The participants came from seven different middle schools and were either in the seventh or eighth grade. The researchers distributed a survey to all the classrooms and it took the students about 10 to 15 minutes to complete it. About 20% of participants reported being cyber-bullied at least once over the past year and 55% of the participants reported being a victim of cyber-bullying in the past 30 days. One thing the researchers found was that the more a student uses the Internet, the more prone they are to be bullied. In addition to this, they also found that females are more prone to becoming a bully or a victim when it comes to cyber-bullying. Many of the participants expressed that they would tell their parents about their experiences online. Parents and the student’s classmates were usually told, but most teachers were not. Even though a majority of participants would tell someone about their experience, they were not able to help them. The present study examined many of these same questions among high school students.

Dehue, Bolman, and Vollink (2008) designed a study in order to examine the prevalence and nature of cyber-bullying among young people, as well as parent knowledge of cyber-bullying. The study consisted of 1,211 primary and secondary school students selected by the Regional Public Health Services staff. The students took a survey, which included questions about the prevalence of cyber-bullying, methods of cyber-bullying, knowledge of computers/technology, and reactions to cyber-bullying. The parent’s of the students were also asked to participate in a survey, which consisted of questions about their knowledge/skills of computers, house rules about Internet use and
texting, prevalence of cyber-bullying, communication about bullying, and efforts to stop it. The results found that 22% of students had reported being bullied at least once during the school year and 16% of students reported that they had bullied someone else. The results also indicated that 85.6% of bullies engaged in bullying while at home and
62.97% engaged in bullying while they were alone. Furthermore, the results found that 60% of parents set rules on the frequency with which their child could use the Internet and 80% of parents set rules about what their children could not do on the Internet.

However, the percentage of parents who reported that their child had been involved in online bullying was considerably lower than the percentage of children that reported being involved in online bullying. This study contributed to a clearer understanding of youngster’s experiences with online bullying as well as parent involvement of Internet use. Although this study examined the rules set by parents, it did not make clear whether or not parents enforced their rules and monitored their children’s activity. The present study sought to gain further information on parent perception and involvement of student’s Internet use. Mesch (2009) investigated which online behaviors are associated with the risk of being bullied as well as what type of parental mediation techniques may decrease the risk
for bullying. The study consisted of 935 12 to 17 year old teens living in continental United States telephone households. The participants were surveyed over the phone about their experiences with cyber-bullying, exposure to risks/different sites, frequency of online communication, and willingness to share personal information online. The teen’s parents were surveyed about restrictive mediation and evaluative mediation. Restrictive mediation questions assessed whether or not parents had installed filters to keep their child from accessing certain sites or installed monitoring software to record online activity, and whether or not they checked the sites their child visited. Evaluative
mediation questions sought to gain information on the existence of Internet rules and on the location of computers in the household. The results indicated that 86% of parents reported having rules about what sites their child could and could not visit. Additionally, 66% of parents reported regularly checking the sites that their child visits and 56% have
installed a filter to monitor what kind of content their child views. Furthermore, the results suggested that parents of non-victims are more likely to have rules on Internet use.

Schneider, O’Donnell, Stueve, and Coulter. (2008) conducted a study consisting of over 20,000 9th to 12th grade students in MetroWest, Massachusetts. The researchers administered a survey to measure victimization of both cyber and school bullying, as well as psychological distress. The results indicated that 15.8% of students were victims of cyber-bullying, and that 59.7% of the cyber-bullying victims were also victims of school bullying. These results demonstrate how prevalent cyber-bullying is among high school students. In regards to psychological distress, depressive symptoms were highest amongst victims of both cyber and school bullying (47.0%), followed by cyber only victims (33.9%), and school only victims (26.6%). Depressive symptoms of students who were
not victims of cyber or school bullying was 13.6%. The results also indicated that attempted suicide was highest among victims of both cyber and school bullying at 15.2%, followed closely by cyber only victims (9.4%). These results demonstrate the necessity of finding methods to prevent cyber-bullying.

The present study examined the prevalence of cyber-bullying and attitudes and behaviors related to cyber-bullying among adolescents in Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York in an attempt to contribute to the growing body of empirical evidence on this issue. The more we understand cyber-bullying as well as attitudes and
behaviors related to cyber-bullying, the better position we will be in to address this growing epidemic affecting today’s youth.


The study included 359 participants; all were high school students from the Tech
Center at Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES in New York. Female participants made
up 40.7% of the sample, males made up of 58.2% of the sample, and 1.1% did not report
gender. The ethnicity breakdown was: 54% white, 18.9% Hispanic, 6.4% African American, 1.7% Asian, 2.2% Biracial and 8.4% other. 0.6% of the sample were freshman, 1.7% sophomores, 42.6% juniors, and 51.8% seniors. Ages ranged from 15 to 21 years, with a mean age of 16.92. Students were from Bedford, Lakeland, Walter Panas,
Ossining, Somers, Briarcliff Manor, Croton Harmon, Hendrick Hudson, Mahopac, Peekskill, Yorktown, Carmel, Garrison, Katonah-Lewisboro, North Salem, Putnam Valley, Brewster, Chappaqua, and Haldane school districts which are all located in Northern Westchester and Putnam Counties. All students were enrolled in the BOCES
program BOCES located in New York which offers career and technical courses to high school students from school districts throughout Westchester and Putnam County. Students attend The Tech Center for a portion of their regular school day, while still receiving required courses at their home school.

The Cyber-Bullying Survey For Teens, designed by the researchers for the purpose of this study, was used in the study. The questionnaire, utilized a five point Likert scale rating. The questionnaire assessed the use and familiarity of technology and social media, as well as experience with cyber-bullying. It also examined behaviors and
attitudes related to social media use and cyber-bullying. A demographics form was also used to obtain socio-biographical information from the participants.

IRB approval was obtained for the series of bullying studies being conducted by
the primary researcher. Permission to recruit students was obtained from the superintendent of the specific schools. Consent from the parents was obtained through the aid of the school. The survey packets were distributed by the researchers to students at the Tech Center at Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES. Students completed the survey during their technical skills class; survey completion took about 20 minutes.

The results demonstrate that the participants spend an average of 3 hours a day on
their computer, tablet, or smartphone for things other than schoolwork. Furthermore,
65% of the participants use 2 or more social media sites. The majority of the participants
(73.3%) reported having access to computers in various locations in their homes and
10.0% have computers in their bedrooms and report using their tablets and smartphones
in their bedrooms. Results revealed a significant correlation (r =.21, p<0.01) between the
number of social networks used and the amount of cyber-bullying they have experienced
or been exposed to.
The results also demonstrated that 45.1% responded “strongly agree” or “agree” to
the question “I would tell an adult if someone was making fun of me or posting
embarrassing pictures of me on sites like Facebook, Instagram, etc.”. Furthermore, 47.7%
of students reported being friends with their parents on social media sites. There was a
significant correlation (r=.15; p<0.01) between students reporting being friends with their
parents on social media with the question “I would tell an adult if someone was making
fun of me or posting embarrassing pictures of me on sites like Facebook, Instagram, etc.”. Additionally, 18.6% of students reported either “strongly agree” or “agree” to the question “My parents monitored my activity on social networking sites when I was in middle school.”. A correlation between this question and the question about whether or not students would tell someone if they were bullied also yielded significant results (r=.15; p<0.01).

According to previous literature, traditional bullying has been detrimental to the
well being of children and adolescents. With the recent developments in technology there
are new means by which bullies can victimize their peers. The literature has demonstrated
that cyber-bullying, the product of these technological advances, can also have adverse
effects on the mental state of today’s youth. This issue results from the fact that cyberbullying
allows the bully to intrude on the victims every day life. This is problematic due
to the fact that technology does not allow one to escape the harassment. Previous studies
have revealed that students believe telling someone, such as a trusted parent or teacher,
would be the best remedy to problem of bullying, especially cyber-bullying. In other
studies, there were mixed results about whether or not parent involvement would be
useful in preventing or decreasing the negative consequences of cyber-bullying. Due to
the increasing prevalence of cyber-bullying and its harmful effects, a goal of our study
was to examine whether or not parental involvement could be key in stopping or limiting
the occurrence of cyber-bullying.
The results contribute to a clearer understanding of teen use of the internet and
social media sites. A significantly high number of teens reported spending a lot of time on
their electronic devices and a variety of different social media sites. The increasing use of
technology and social media allows for greater opportunities of cyber-bullying.
Unsurprisingly, there was a positive correlation between the number of social networks
used and the amount of cyber-bullying experiences the students have had. This supports
previous findings of the increasing prevalence of technology and cyber-bullying.
The results also demonstrate that parents are key factors in their teens’ experience
and exposure to cyber-bullying. Interestingly, almost half of the students reported that
they would tell an adult if someone was making fun of them on social networking sites.
In addition to this, almost half of the students reported being friends with their parents on
social networking sites. There was a correlation between these two items, which implies
that parent monitoring is key to dealing with cyber-bullying. The results also yielded a
correlation between parents who monitored their children’s activity during middle school
and the students likelihood of telling an adult about cyber-bullying. These results suggest
that parent involvement in their teen’s social media use is critical in order to allow parentchild
communication about cyber-bullying. Furthermore, there was a significant
correlation between overall parent involvement and teens’ cyber use and experiences with
cyber-bullying. The results of this study make it clear that cyber-bullying is an issue for
today’s youth and highlight the importance of parent involvement in teens’ social media
use. It is apparent that parent involvement is key in preventing cyber-bullying. For this
reason, parents need to open the lines of communication with their children. Parents are encouraged to communicate with their children about Internet safety as well as monitor their child’s social media use. It is critical that parents be aware of their teen’s virtual worlds. Additionally, they are encouraged to monitor their child’s activity through the various forms of technology, including cell phones and tablets. Furthermore, they must communicate with their children about the dangers of technology and cyber-bullying.
This study was only performed on high school students. The researchers believe in the future, similar studies should be conducted on middle school and possibly even elementary school students. Two questions that were asked in the survey administered were, “I have been using social networking sites since I was in middle school.” and “My parents monitored my activity on social networking sites when I was in middle school.” As time progresses, children are beginning to use social media at younger ages such as in middle school. Therefore, a good direction for future research would be to examine whether or not early intervention by parents is crucial in stopping or limiting future
Additionally, in this study specific types of cyber-bullying were not examined. With the various forms of technology, there are multiple ways that someone may be bullied. The form of the cyber-bullying can either limit or permit parental involvement in the situation. Therefore, it may be useful to examine which forms of cyber-bullying are
most prevalent so that suggestions for parental involvement can be researched and tailored accordingly.
In conclusion, cyber-bullying has negative effects on children and adolescents.
Due to both the growth in technology and the early use of social media sites, cyber-bullying is becoming increasingly prevalent. Research has shown that cyber-bullying can often lead to depression and even suicide. Therefore, it is important to find methods that can be employed to stop the growth of this societal problem. As students in previous
studies indicated that parental involvement could be useful in stopping cyber-bullying, the study was aimed at exploring whether or not parental monitoring is actually effective. The results of this study demonstrated that indeed parental involvement is associated with a decrease in a child’s experiences with cyber-bullying. It seems imperative to continue research on parental involvement as a means to prevent cyber-bullying.

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