Cyberbullying: A 21st Century Health Care Phenomenon

Jemica Carter, PhD, RN; Feleta L. Wilson, PhD, RN, FAAN


Pediatr Nurs. 2015;41(3):115-125. 

In This Article


Study Design

The present study used a non-experimental, correlational research design to investigate the relationship between access to and/or use of technology and experiences with traditional bullying and cyberbullying, including if an adolescent was likely to be either a perpetrator or a victim of traditional bullying and cyberbullying. In addition, personal and academic characteristics were assessed to determine if they influenced traditional bullying or cyberbullying. The design was appropriate because the independent variable, personal experiences with traditional bullying and cyberbullying, was not manipulated, and no intervention or treatment was provided. Dependent variables were access to and habitual use of technology, location of the participant's school or community organization (i.e., suburban or urban), and personal and academic characteristics.

Sample and Setting

Data were collected over a period of eight months from a convenience sample of 367 adolescents attending urban and suburban schools or enrolled in urban and suburban community organizations (including church organizations) in the Midwest United States from October 2010 to May 2011. A convenience sample was necessary because parental permission had to be obtained prior to the adolescents' participation. Inclusion criteria included being in 5th through 12th grade and between 10 and 18 years of age. Students were excluded from the study if their parents returned a passive consent form to the principal investigator (PI) indicating they did not want their adolescent to participate. During data collection, these students were excused from the setting and completed alternate assignments.


Two data collection instruments were employed: the Student Survey on Cyberbullying (SSC; C McLoughlin & J. Burgess, personal communication, February 12, 2010) and a short demographic survey created by the PI. The SSC, a self-report questionnaire for students in middle and high school, obtains information on the prevalence of cyberbullying and perceptions of the types of situations and events that may be considered cyberbullying. The instrument measures feelings, actions, and behaviors associated with cyberbullying (McLoughlin, Meyricke, & Burgess, 2009). The SSC was developed for studies in Australia; however, the survey items are relevant for cyberbullying by adolescents regardless of nationality.

In February 2010, the PI contacted the authors of the SSC, C. McLoughlin and J. Burgess, and received permission to adapt their instrument for the present study. The SSC was used to develop the first and third section of the present instrument. The first section of the present instrument collected data on the personal characteristics of the participants. The second section asked participants to indicate how often they used a computer, along with information on their bullying experiences as a victim or perpetrator. The third section asked the adolescents about their personal experiences with cyberbullying.

The authors of this study were unable to locate validity and reliability scores from the original authors of the SSC or from other studies that had used the instrument. An expert panel of four professionals (three mental health professionals, including a psychiatric nurse and psychiatric nurse practitioner, and a psychologist who specialized in cyberbullying research; and a high school guidance counselor) determined content validity of the adapted SSC and provided suggestions to improve readability and reduce ambiguity. The Cronbach alpha for the present instrument was 0.96, providing support that the scale had excellent internal consistency as a measure of reliability.

Data Collection Methods

Following Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from the Hu man Investigation Committee of the authors' research institution, the PI met with school officials, program leaders, youth pastors, and parents to explain the research study and distribute parental information sheets for the school or organization to mail to parents. Approximately 500 parent information sheets were sent out to parents and/or guardians. Parents were asked to sign the consent form and mail the packet to the PI to indicate that they did not want their child to participate; a database was maintained of students whose parents declined the participation. Twenty-six signed the consent form and mailed it back to the researcher, indicating their refusal to allow the student to participate in the research study. The PI attended a second meeting of each organization to distribute the research packets and read and review the adolescent assent form with the potential participants. To eliminate reading ability as a possible confounding variable, the PI read each survey item aloud to the students. Return of the completed surveys was evidence of their willingness to participate. Approximately 45 to 60 minutes were required to complete the surveys. Each student who return ed completed surveys received a $5.00 gift card.

A total of 407 surveys were obtained from students attending urban and suburban charter schools and community organizations. The returned surveys were checked for completeness before being entered into a data file; 40 surveys were eliminated due to extensive missing data.

Data Analysis

Data were entered into a computer for analysis using IBM-SPSS Ver. 21.0. Frequency distributions, crosstabulations, and measures of central tendency and dispersion were used to provide a description of the participants. Logistic regression analyses were used to determine if demographic variables were predictors of traditional bullying and cyberbullying. All decisions on the statistical significance of the findings were made using a criterion alpha level of 0.05.