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23 May 2013

How Classmates Can Influence Teens’ Cyberbullying Behavior

Keywords: bullying, internet, peers, survey, teens, Western Europe, computer, media, social media,

A study published in the Journal of Children and Media provides insights on the influence of peers and internet use on 13- to 19-year olds’ cyberbullying behavior. It turns out that the number of cyberbullies within a school class, increases the risks of teens’ becoming a cyberbully or -victim. In addition, internet use is related to cyberbullying involvement as well.  

Take aways

  • The risk of becoming a cyberbully or –victim depends on the general class atmosphere (e.g., number of bullies) rather than on the bullying behavior of close friends. 
  • Intervention programs should therefore pay special attention to the norms and social atmospheres within school classes. 
  • Internet use increases the risk of becoming a cyberbully or –victim as well. 

Study information

  • The question?

    What is the influence of peers and internet use on teens’ cyberbullying behavior?

  • Who?

    276 13-to 19-year olds (mean age: 15 years old; 57% boys; average time spent online: 2.3 hours per day)

  • Where?

    Germany, Europe

  • How?

    A full school survey was conducted at a German high school. The questionnaire contained questions about cyberbullying (i.e., experiences both as perpetrator and victim), internet use, use of social network sites, and friendships. Teens were asked to nominate their friends in school. The number of received nominations predicted children’s popularity among schoolmates. 

Facts and findings

  • The more cyberbullies are present within a class, the more teens were at risk of becoming a cyberbully or cybervictim. 
  • However, the bully behavior of close friends did not directly affect teens’ risk of becoming a cyberbully or cybervictim.
  • This indicates that the general aggressive atmosphere within a class was a stronger predictor of cyberbullying involvement than the behavior of friends.
  • Victimization was further determined by gender, social popularity, and time spent online: 
    • Girls had four times more risk of being cyberbullied compared to boys. 
    • Less popular teens were more at risk of becoming a cybervictim. 
    • The more time teens spent online, the more they were at risk of becoming victimized. 
  • Perpetration was further determined by the number of social network sites used. The more online social channels teens used, the more they were at risk of becoming a cyberbully. 
  • Critical note: The researchers studied only 1 high school, and the conclusions may not hold for all high schools.