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


Description of the Sample

A total of 367 participants 10 (n = 1, 0.3%) to 18 (n = 3, 0.8%) years of age completed surveys. Table 1 provides demographic details of the adolescents. The most frequently reported ages were 13 through 15 years (n = 261, 71.8%), and the most frequently reported grade levels were 7th and 8th (n = 217, 59.3%). Slightly over half of the participants (n = 184, 50.4%) were female. Ethnic groups reported by the adolescents included African American (n = 285, 77.9%), American Indian/Alaskan Native (n = 19, 5.2%), Caucasian (n = 7, 1.9%), Hispanic (n = 2, 0.5%), Middle Eastern (n = 1, 0.3%), and other (n = 45, 12.3%). The majority of the adolescents were from the suburbs (n = 288, 78.5%), with 79 (21.5%) adolescents from urban areas.

Research Question One: Adolescents' Access to Technology

The survey instrument included questions regarding the adolescents' use of technology. The majority of participants indicated that they had a computer (n = 337, 92.1%), cell phone (n = 288, 79.1%), and/or one or more email accounts (n = 322, 88.7%); were on Facebook™ or MySpace™ (n = 298, 81.6%); and sent and received text messages (n = 309, 84.2%). Some adolescents indicated they used the social networking site Twitter (n = 102, 28%). As for location of the technology, the largest group of students (n = 113, 30.9%) reported their computer was a laptop and thus portable, with slightly fewer (n = 108, 29.6%) indicating they used a computer located in the living room/family room. Ninety-one (24.9%) participants reported that the computer was in their bedroom, with 57 (15.6%) indicating the computer was located in the basement of their home. Fifty-six (15.3%) adolescents indicated "other location" but did not provide any details regarding the location of their computer. Table 2 presents results of this analysis.

Research Question Two: Daily use of Technology

Participants were asked to indicate their daily use of technology. The average number of hours spent on a computer ranged from 0 to 8, with a median of 2 hours. The mean of the reported number of text messages sent daily was 189.63 (SD = 326.82), with a median of 71 (range = 0 to 3,000). The mean of the reported number of emails sent daily was 2.12 (SD = 2), with a median of 2 (range = 0–25). Table 3 presents results of this analysis.

Research Question Three: Prevalence of Bullying and Cyberbullying Experiences

Table 4 indicates students' personal experiences with bullying and cyberbullying. The majority (n = 221, 60.5%) had not experienced traditional bullying during school. In contrast, 110 (30.1%) had been bullied, with 34 (9.3%) not sure if they had been bullied. Ninety-one (25.1%) students reported they had bullied others at school, with 209 (57.7%) indicating they had not bullied others at school. Sixty-two (17.1%) students indicated they were not sure if they had bullied others during school. The majority of the students (n = 277, 75.5%) reported they had not been cyberbullied, with 62 (16.9%) indicating they had been cyberbullied. Twenty-eight students (7.6%) did not know if they had been cyberbullied.

Students who had been cyberbullied (n = 62) were directed to answer questions on the survey regarding their experiences with the situation (see Table 4). The majority (n = 40, 67.8%) had been cyberbullied on social networks such as MySpace™, Facebook™, or Twitter™. Seventeen (28.3%) had been cyberbullied on mobile phones, 13 (21.7%) in chat rooms, 7 (11.7%) through email; 11 (18.3%) of these participants indicated "other" but did not provide information regarding what media had been used.

Students who had been victims of cyberbullying (n = 62) were asked to indicate who had cyberbullied them. The majority (n = 42, 70.0%) had been cyberbullied by students attending the same school, with 19 (31.7%) indicating that people outside of the school were responsible for the abuse. Eight (13.3%) participants indicated they did not know who had cyberbullied them, and eight (13.3%) indicated "other."

Students who had been victims of cyberbullying (n = 62) were asked to indicate the number of times the abuse had occurred in the past 30 days. The majority (n = 30, 52.6%) had not been cyberbullied in the past 30 days, and 16 (28.1%) reported they had been cyberbullied less than four times. Seven (12.3%) had been cyberbullied 4 to 10 times, and 4 (7.0%) had been cyberbullied more than 10 times.

Students who had been victims of cyberbullying (n = 62) were asked if they had cyberbullied others. The majority (n = 30, 53.6%) reported they had not cyberbullied others, while 19 (33.9%) indicated they had engaged in cyberbullying. Students who indicated they had cyberbullied others (n = 19) were asked what media was used. All students in this group reported they had used social networks to cyberbully others (n = 19, 100.0%). In addition, students in this group reported the use of other technologies to engage in cyberbullying: mobile phones (n = 18, 94.7%), chat rooms (n = 6, 31.6%), and email (n = 3, 15.8%) (see Table 4).

Research Question Four: Analyses of Personal and Academic Characteristics

Two logistic regression analyses were used to determine if demographic characteristics could be used to predict a student being bullied (traditional) or cyberbullied in school. Characteristics included site (urban or suburban) of the data collection; age; gender; grade level in school; ethnicity; self-reported academic grades and citizenship; number of times suspended; held back a grade; possess a computer, cellphone, and/or email; number of siblings; and birth order. Demographic characteristics were not statistically significant predictors of being either bullied (χ2 [20] = 27.97, p = 0.136) or cyberbullied (χ2 [20] = 26.28, p = 0.157) (see Table 5 and Table 6).