A Critical review of the current cyber bullying research: definitional, theoretical and methodological issues. Where do we go from here?

Katrina A. Newey, Natasha Magson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference paperpeer-review


Past documentation of schoolyard behaviour showed that bullying existed long before it became a focus for empirical researchers, psychologists, and educators (Rigby, 2002). Recent interest has arisen with the increase in the reporting of bullying behaviours occurring within the workplace, classroom, and via new communication technologies (Patchin & Hinduja, 2006; Rigby, 2002). Research has also increased due to the recognition of bullying as an invasive school issue, with harmful long-term outcomes for many students and school communities (Hinduja & Patchin, 2007; Li, 2006; Mason, 2008). With recent widespread use of new technologies, school students today have expanded traditional bullying techniques into the virtual environment. This is known as cyber bullying, and includes the use of online chat, email, websites, and instant messenger (IMs) social networking sites to bully others (Aricak et al., 2008; Smith et al., 2008). The present investigation will be conducted to: investigate the characteristics, motivations, and goals of those who engage in cyber bullying; the impact of cyber bullying on bullies, targets, bystanders, families, and the community; the relations between cyber bullying and traditional bullying types; and the potential characteristics required for successful cyber bullying interventions. The primary proposed outcome for this research investigation is to build the capacity of students, parents, school and community by investigating and understanding the complexity of why adolescents become involved in the vicious bullying cycle and to later utilise these findings to prevent, address and minimise cyber bullying to enhance young Australians cyber safety, health, and wellbeing in a socially innovative and sustainable manner. In summation, this paper will be highlighting the previous theoretical and methodological problematic issues in past bullying research, will be discussing the gaps in the literature and provide a summary and justification for a newly proposed cyber bullying study. Cyber bullying is a relatively new phenomenon, and literature on the area is only starting to uncover and explore the nature, definitions, incident rates, gender differences, and the affects this type of bullying has on adolescent students. Australian research it is yet to elucidate the nature and prevalence rates for different cyber bullying forms, which is crucial to understand in order to create cyber bullying prevention programs (Lodge & Frydenberg, 2007). Considering the trend that traditional bullying behaviour increases as students get older, peaking during the early high school years, it is not clear whether the same trends exist for those using cyber methods. However, a study conducted by Kowalski and Limber (2008) with students from year 7, 8, and 9 found that 11% of students had been cyber bullied, 7% had been involved in both bullying and being bullied using cyber methods, and 4 % had cyber bullied another person in the last two months. These results suggested that this type of bullying may be on the rise as 50% of the teenagers in their sample owned a mobile phone, and 97% of students had access to the internet, with a large proportion of these students using electronic devices daily. Li (2007) also investigated cyber bullying with 177 grade seven students and found 54% were both bullied and targeted with traditional methods, and a quarter of this group had also been subjected to cyber-bullying. Furthermore, one in three students had bullied another by traditional styles; and 15% had bullied others via technological communication sources. However, these cyber-bullying prevalence rates may be overestimated due to the problematic research practices used (i.e., dichotomous variables, single-items indictors).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalAARE Conference Proceedings : 2010
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes
EventAustralian Association for Research in Education Conference - Melbourne
Duration: 28 Nov 20102 Dec 2010


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