• Having their own cell phone, text messaging and excessive use of the internet increase possibilities of teenagers to become a victim of cyberbullying

    January 08, 2016

    New study developed by researchers of the University of Oviedo with 3.180 high school students reveals that, contrary to what was expected, parental control is not linked with a lower rate of cybervictimization.

    Two teenagers using their cell phones.

    Being or having been bullied at school, using instant text messaging (Whatsapp, Line, Telegram), having their own cell phone, playing online games and using the internet for more than 3 hours a day are risk factors leading to suffer severe cyberbullying in the period of adolescence. This is one of the main conclusions shown by the study carried out by researchers of the Department of Psychology of the University of Oviedo. The authors of the work, which has been published in the International International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, came to these conclusions after analyzing the Cybervictimization Questionnaire (CIVIC) and the Questionnaire of Risk Factors for Cybervictimization which were applied to 3.180 Secondary Education students (ESO) aged between 11 and 19 years old, from 16 centers in Asturias.

    This work, published in the ‘International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology', reveals that students who suffer bullying at school are more likely to suffer cyberbullying.

    The objective of this work, according to one of the authors Alejandra Dobarro, was to analyze the predictive value of some of the variables that may affect the likelihood of occasional or severe cibervictimization in adolescence. Researchers took into account, among others, the following variables: socio-demographic (gender and age), psychological (self-esteem, shyness, anxiety), educational (bullying inside the classroom, training and emotional support at the center, academic performance), family (parental control) and technological (frequency of internet use and risk behavior).

    Previous research works, carried out by different authors, show that between 20% and 50% of teenagers suffer occasional bullying by electronic means at some point, and between 2% and 7% have suffered severe victimization, which may even harm their mental health and contribute to depression and suicidal ideation. However, preliminary results obtained in Asturias by this research group show a lower rate of severe cybervictimization. This term refers to aggression by cell phone or over the internet which consists of verbal or visual aggressions social exclusion and impersonation.

    The main results reveal that age, being bullied at school, risky use of the internet, the use of social networks and text messaging and the frequency of use of the net are risky factors statistically relevant for cybervictimization, either occasional or severe. On the contrary, lower levels of self-esteem will act as a protective factor in both cases. On the other hand, having their own cell phone, playing online with other people and using the internet for more than 3 hours a day are risk factors associated with cyberbullying.

    The authors of the work explain that, once results are carefully analyzed, unexpected and sometimes odd conclusions come out. Therefore, the initial hypothesis was that parental control, for instance, could be a protective factor, however, this is the only variable of the ones analyzed that does not show any significant statistical association with the level of cybervictimization. The study shows that parents´ control on how their children use the internet is often useless, because teenagers spend time with friends and have access to their devices without parents´ supervision. In addition, excessive control of the parents may imply lack of trust and communication between parents and children.

    Concerning educational risk factors, the data collected reveal that being bullied at school increases the chances of suffering cyberbullying, mostly severe aggressions. Researchers explain that, very often, victims and aggressors go to the same school, therefore they state that being bullied in class and over the net are part of the same phenomenon. Contrary to what was expected, the study suggests that training and emotional support provided in the education center do not seem to be effective in the most severe cases. In this sense, we shall take into account that anyone can be a victim of offensive comments or retouched photographs, in spite of the training received. As for academic performance, both failing a subject and repeating the same grade increase possibilities of being a victim of severe cyberbullying.

    The work, financed by the Regional Ministry of Economy and Employment of the Principality, does confirm some other aspects researchers expected to find. So internet usage frequency and risk behaviors on the internet are definitely relevant risk factors. The most problematic applications are Whatsapp, Line or Telegram, more than social networks. Cyberbullying, both occasional and severe, is more frequent in people who surf the net more than three hours on the weekends.

    Los resultados obtenidos, a juicio de los autores del trabajo, indican que la prevención, detección y tratamiento del acoso a través de internet deberían tener en cuenta aspectos como la educación en valores y la enseñanza de habilidades sociales. Además, los niños y adolescentes tendrían que recibir formación digital para formarlos en las ventajas y riesgos potenciales de los dispositivos electrónicos. Por último, el estudio sugiere también que una mejor comunicación entre padres es hijos es más eficiente que el control parental de internet.

    • Risk factors associated with cybervitimization in adolescence. (Factores de riesgo asociados con ciberacoso en la adolescencia). International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology. 2015.
    • David Álvarez-García, José Carlos Núñez Pérez, Alejandra Dobarro González y Celestino Rodríguez Pérez.