Defining and Conceptualizing Cyberbullying

Defining and Conceptualizing Cyberbullying

Karin Spenser (Nottingham Trent University, UK) and Lucy R. Betts (Nottingham Trent University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7368-5.ch036

Abstract

Whilst researchers have defined face-to-face bullying to include elements of repetition, power imbalance, and intentional acts directed towards an individual, the definition and conceptualization of cyberbullying is more widely debated. Alongside arguing why researchers and practitioners should address cyberbullying, this chapter will review some of the unique aspects of cyberbullying that are central to this form of bullying. In particular, the chapter will consider the issues of anonymity, access, repetition, permanency, power, audience, and motivation. The chapter will also discuss how these issues can, in turn, influence how cyberbullying is conceptualized and the conclusions that can be drawn from research on cyberbullying. Finally, solutions and recommendations and future research in the area of cyberbullying will be presented.
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Background

Although cyberbullying is undoubtedly a by-product of the union of adolescent aggression and electronic communication; it is it's propensity for growth which gives cause for concern for researchers and educational practitioners (Cassidy, Faucher, & Jackson, 2013). Further, empirical evidence reports that the impacts of cyberbullying include: distress (Li, 2010), loneliness (Sahin, 2012), depression (Tynes, Rose, & Williams, 2010), increased psychosomatic symptoms (Sourander et al., 2010), suicidal ideation (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010), and reduced academic performance (Smith et al., 2008).

Despite this attention, many questions remain unanswered with regard to the conceptual and theoretical similarities between face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying. It is widely accepted that definitions of face-to-face bullying include aspects of repetition, power imbalance, and intention (Olweus, 2013). There are three forms of face-to-face bullying: physical, verbal, and social (Rigby, 1997). Physical bullying is a ‘direct’ form of aggression that involves hitting, punching, kicking, or any other action that can inflict physical pain or harm. The power imbalance between the perpetrator and the target in physical bullying makes it difficult for the target to defend themselves and prevent the actions being repeated (Rigby, 2002).

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