Getting Strangled

True cyberbullying, these practices must meet several criteria. They should be intended to hurt (by the perpetrator) and perceived as hurtful (by the victim); be part of a repetitive pattern of negative offline or online actions; and be performed in a relationship characterized by a power imbalance (based on “real-life” power criteria, such as physical strength or age, and/or on ICT-related criteria such as technological know-how and anonymity)

We need some clear definitions for ICT mischief. Often used forms of “deviant” cyber activities, such as cyber harassment, flaming, hacking, and cyberstalking, is often very vague. Time for some research for a clear definition of cyberbullying.

Because of the exploratory nature of the study the researchers used focusgroups: students from different ages, sexes, and educational levels, classes ranging from the last year of elementary school to the last year of secondary school; classes from general, technical, and vocational education; and classes with both boys and girls. They questioned these youngsters and taped the conversations. They wanted to obtain a wide range of opinions from different groups about their opinion on everyday (positive and negative) experiences with ICT. These conversations were all literally transcribed. The texts were then imported in Atlas-Ti (a program for the analysis of qualitative data) and coded. The analyses focused on the detection of general trends as well as on possible differences in answers between subgroups (based on sex, age, and education level).

The students easily produced examples of cyberbullying:

  • Several students admitted that they (or somebodythey knew) had been the victim of hacking. The word hacker has several meanings, here they meant that someone else had broken into their MSN account, for instance, and changed their password, deleted their contact list, and sent insulting or strange messages to their contact person.Actually this is usually called cracking
  • Students told that they were sometimes contacted by strangers. These intrusions were often unwelcome and therefore blocked or deleted
  • Another example was sending huge amounts of buzzers or winks to someone, copying personal conversations and sending them to others, spreading gossip, manipulating pictures of persons and sending them to others
  • Making Web sites with humiliating comments about a student
  • Sending threatening e-mails, misleading someone via e-mail, sending messages with sexual comments, spam
  • Humiliating someone in an open chat room
  • Misuse of mobile phones (e.g., getting calls in the middle of the night, being threatened through
    the telephone)

The students told the interviewers that these practices could also be interpreted in other ways, depending on the precise circumstances. They should be distinguished from cyber-teasing (not intended
to hurt, not necessarily repetitive, and performed in an equal-power relationship) and cyber arguing (intended to hurt, not necessarily repetitive, and performed in an equal-power relationship).

It is important to stress that cyberbullying can be defined as intended by the sender to hurt; part of a repetitive pattern of negative offline or online actions; and performed in a relationship characterized by a power imbalanced (based on real-life power criteria such as physical strength or age and/or on ICT related criteria such as technological know-how and anonymity). This can distinguish it from other forms of cyber mischief
Vandebosch, H., Van Cleemput, K. (2008). Defining Cyberbullying: A Qualitative Research into the Perceptions of Youngsters. CyberPsychology & Behavior DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2007.0042