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purpose of this study is to explore some of the different variables that
influence people to become cyber bullies. The study seeks to answer the
research question, How
does the lack of the physical intimidation effect people’s inclination to cyber
The goal is to analyze the demographics of cyber bullies and determine weather
or not there is a physical influence on this growing trend.


















            Since the beginning of time people
have always had to deal with bullies. Just like anything else, however, things
tend to evolve with technology. With the evolution of social media and technology
some adolescence as well as adults are simply unable to escape harassment from
their peers in school and in the workplace. This social phenomenon is what has
come to be known as cyberbullying. According to Willard (2004) there are eight
different forms of cyberbullying, which include Flaming (online fights),
Harassment (sending vulgar messages), Denigration (posting gossip),
impersonation, outing (sharing peoples secrets), trickery (tricking someone
into sharing secrets), exclusion, and cyberstalking.

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The platforms for this to occur
have become countless, from well-known social media sites like Facebook, Twitter
and Tumblr, to smaller sites that allow you remain anonymous such as Yik Yak
and ask.com. The days are gone of having to be the biggest meanest kid in the
schoolyard to hurt others. Now it doesn’t matter your size, age, gender, or
social standing if you want to bully someone. People can now create their own
anonymous personas or simply continue to bully others online after they have
left school or work.

There have been several instances
in the news over the last few years of people who have taken their own lives
due to the constant ridicule from their peers. Because of this researchers have
started to take notice of this new social issue and have performed numerous
studies analyzing different aspects of cyberbullying such as the types of
people who bully, the prevalence of cyberbullying, and the effects on the
victims, but one thing that hasn’t been studied is whether or not the lack of physical
intimidation effects people likelihood to become cyberbullies.

This study is going to include
extensive research into the motivations to cyberbully as well as its influence
on the aggressors and victims and the relationships between the two. We will
also examine the different techniques cyberbullies employ as well as the
techniques that victims use in order to cope with the harassment.

of Literature

Prevelance of

            Cyberbullying is something that is has become a new
social phenomenon in today’s society. It can often times leave students unable
to escape their bullies and leave them feeling alone and helpless. Faucher,
Jackson, and Cassidy(2014) performed a study on 1925 students across four
Canadian universities that found 24.1 percent of students had been the victims
of cyberbullying over the last twelve months. These shocking numbers show that
nearly one in every four people have been the victims of this phenomenon. This
statistic is interesting however because when compared to studies that were
done amongst younger age students you see that the numbers are drastically
different. Wegge, Vandebosch, and Eggermont(2014) found that among 1,458 13-14
year old students that considerably less students reported being cyberbullied.
This is very similar to what Vanderbosch and Van Cleemput (2009) found among
2052 students in the 12-18 ranges which concluded that 11.1 percent of students
had been victims of cyberbullying. This research concludes that cyberbullying
appears to be more prevelant in students as they get older. Wegge et al. (2014)
also noted that 30.8 percent had been victims of traditional bullying.

 This raises the question as to why it seems to
be less prevalent among younger students. Is it possible that they simply don’t
have as much access to the tools of cyberbullying that students at the
university level have, or they possibly aren’t as technologically advances as
their older peers? It continues to raise questions about the issue of
cyberbullying as well as what classifies the perpetrators as well as what are
their reasons for harming others.

types of people who bully. An important factor when analyzing cyberbullying
is trying to understand the types of people who are the aggressors. The first
thing that needs to be discussed when analyzing this is the simple matter of
gender when it comes to who is generally the aggressor. Slonje and Smith (2008)
found that when it comes to cyberbullying males are more often than not the
aggressors with males being reported as the cyberbully far more often than
females. Slonje et al (2008) also found that 36.2 percent of students were
unaware of the gender of their aggressors. This is intriguing because for one
its is the same percentage as the number of males who bullied, but most importantly
because it shows that over 1 in 3 students don’t actually know who is bullying
them, which adds to the fear and stigma that is related to cyberbullying and
not being able to escape the perpetrators.

types of people who are victims. Researchers have also conducted various
studies on the types of people who are cyberbullied, or what is often referred
to as “cybervictomology”. Abeele and Cock (2013) conducted a study, which
concluded that the gender of victims varied greatly depending on the form of
cyberbullying. Abeele et al. (2013) found that males are more likely to be on
the receiving end of direct cyberbullying while females are more likely to be
the victims of indirect cyberbullying such as online gossip among peers. These
findings appear to remain true to social social norms where males are viewed as
more confrontational and females are often stereotyped as gossipers.

While not many studies look at the
gender of the victims many studies do research things such as the characteristics
of the victims. Faucher et al. (2014) found that there were numerous reasons
that people felt they were the victims of cyberbullying such as their personal
appearance, interpersonal problems, as well as simply having discrepancies
about their views. Davis, Randall, Ambrose, and Orand (2015) also conducted a
study about victims and their demographics, which looked at the reasons people,
were cyberbullied. Some of the results in the Davis et al. (2015) study
addressed other reasons for being bullied in which they found that 14 percent
of victims had been bullied because of factors such as their sexual

These are all very important
because it fits the profile of the traditional bully that many people envision
but it shows that it transfers over into the cyber world as well. This leads on
further questions about the relationship between the two and how the
cyberbullying is influencing where and how the harassment is continuing.

relationship between bully and victim. The relationship between aggressor
and victim is also something that has been heavily research among
professionals. Beran and Li (2007) conducted a study that involved 432 middle
school students and concluded that just under half of the studnets had been
victims of cyberbullying as well as traditional bullying. This is true across
multiple studies. Wegge et al. (2014) also concluded that people who were
bullied in traditional manners had a much higher likelihood to become victims
of cyberbullying. Another interesting relationship between bully and victim is
that studies have also shown that people who are victims are likely to become
aggressors in the online world. Beran et al. (2007) confirms this by stating,
“students who are bullied through technology are likely to us technology to
bully others”. Faucher et al. (2014) also found similar results claiming that
male and female students decided to bully people online because they were
bullied first.

Research has also been done that
looks at how the bullies find their victims. Wegge et al. (2014) studied the
perpetrators preferences in victims and found that 27 percent were in the same
grade, 14.2 percent were in different grades and a staggering 49.6 percent were
not schoolmates of the bullies. This evidence somewhat contradicts that of the
other studies that state victims are generally bullied at school and at home
because it shows that nearly half of the bullies prefer to bully people they
don’t go to school with and possibly have do not know at all. This continues to
build and add to the idea of cyberbullying in that it allows bullies to create
their own personas and images in order to try and intimidate and influence
others without actually providing a physical intimidation factor.

Effects of

The first part of this literature
review focused on the demographics of the bullies and their victims, but now we
will focus on the lasting effects and the trauma it brings to the victims as
well as the different forms of cyberbullying. While the platforms used are
different the lasting effects that the bullying has on the victims are very
similar. Faucher et al. (2014) concluded that one of the main effects that
cyberbullies had on university students was that they were unable to accomplish
some of their school assignments. While many people think of effects of
bullying to be simply depression or low self esteem this study brought light to
a much different more unexpected issues. Beran et al. (2007) also found similar
responses from victims of cyberbullying claiming that they often didn’t achieve
the same marks in school and had lower concentration. These findings indicate
that the lasting impact that a cyberbully has on their victims is often more
harmful than what most people can see on the surface.

Pieschl, Porsch, Kahl, and
Klockenbusch (2013) found that cybervictims generally were less distressed
during the second confrontation with a cyberbully. This interesting finding
indicates that victims of cyberbullies may actually become desensitized to the
aggression over time lessening the effects of the bullying.

coping techniques. When being faced by a bully it is important that victims
learn to cope and move on from their experiences in order to prevent them from
suffering in their personal and professional life like some of the victims in
previous studies. Davis et al. (2014) conducted a study on victim coping
techniques where they broke the techniques into two distinct categories, which
were behavioral and cognitive strategies. Davis et al. (2014) found that 74
percent of participants preferred behavioral strategies and of those 74
percent, 69 percent of those people found the strategies to be effective. These
behavioral strategies included seeking social support, making a creative
outlet, or ignoring and blocking the bully. Because of the growing trend of
cyberbullying there have been people who have developed different programs to
help raise awareness for cyberbullying as well as offer help to the victims.
One of these programs is known as Cyberprogram 2.0. Garaigordobil and
Martinez-Valderrey (2015) conducted a study testing the effectiveness of this
program and found that it was effective in decreasing the amount of traditional
as well as cyberbullying, but also and more importantly it raised empathy among
classmates towards the victims of these actions. This is a big step in
combatting bullying because peers are constantly influencing each other. If the
general consensus among the class is that bullying is not funny and not right
because they empathize with the victims than it can go a long way in changing
the social norm. If the attention is not longer given to the bully by
classmates and victims it could potentially cut back on the frequency of this

            With that being said it raises the
question instead of trying to cope, why not just remove yourself from the
situation all together and not give the bully what they desire? Arntfield
(2005) discussed the risk associated with using social media and concluded that
“intrinsic rewards that were not tied directly to winning as much as they were
to fantasies of power, celebrity, sexuality, and elevated social status that
came with participating, win or lose.”. This conclusion is one that is very
accurate and relevant to the way adolescence as well as university level
students think in today’s society. The fact of the matter is in order to fit in
and be considered “cool” amongst your peers you need to be on social media to
understand many of the things that are talked about amongst students. Whether
it be trending hashtags, viral videos, or popular memes these are all things
that are commonly shared and talked about between peers. While students may run
the risk of being bullied on these sites, they also run the risk of being
bullied for not knowing the newest updates in our culture, it is truly a
viscous cycle.

of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying gives the bully a much larger spectrum to
choose from when it comes to how exactly they want to intimidate their victims
which may be why it is often easier for them to carry out the act. Of all the
different ways to cyberbully Faucher et al. (2014) found the most common
platforms for cyberbullying to be social media, text messaging, and email which
were used to bully students about half of the time followed up by blogs forums
and chat rooms which were 25 percent. This is no surprise that social media is
the most common platform for cyberbullying because it can allow for the bully
to remain completely anonymous to your average victim. This allows people who
may not fit the mold of your average bully to create a fake account and build
their own persona in order to bully others. Multiple studies also address a
critical factor of using social media or the Internet to bully others, which is
that; the photos or hurtful comments, can remain in cyberspace virtually
forever. Davis et al. (2014) mentions how they received viewed several
responses that talked about “how their traditional bullying experience would
have been magnified if they had occurred in todays digital era”. Faucher et al.
(2014) also talk about how cyberbullying has a longer “shelf life” than your
average bullying. This plays such a huge role because with the aggressive
material on the internet it can often be revisited and the pain can constantly
be brought back to light for the victims making the experience that much more

Social media is very prevelant
among cyberbullies but there is also extensive research done on cell phones and
the role they play in the act of cyberbullying. Abeele et al. (2013) studied
various aspects of mobile phone bullying and found that the most prevalent type
was gossiping via text message, followed by gossiping over the phone, and
concluded with threatening others over text message. Abeele et al. (2013) also
found that girls were more often than not the perpetrators of gossiping while
boys made slightly more threats via cell phone. This numbers tend lean towards
the stereotype of females being more of gossipers and males generally being
more aggressive and physical. This is also interesting because shows that that
society’s stereotypes appear to remain true even in a cyberworld.

RQ1: How
does the lack of the physical intimidation effect people’s inclination to cyber





If I were to conduct
this study I think the best way to do so would be by a combination of
quantitative and qualitative methods. I would choose to use survey research as
well as focus groups in order to study these behaviors and why they happen as
opposed to traditional bullying. By using survey research I would be able to
uncover whether or not people are actually inclined to cyberbully due to
physical factors and the focus groups would be beneficial in trying to
understand why people become cyberbullies. By using the two different types of
research it also will allow for the study to be more diverse and look at
different angles of cyberbullying, which will result in having a better
understanding of this phenomenon.

Sample Selection

            For my sample I
would choose to use a convenience sample. The age I want to study would be 15
to 23 year olds. I would reach out to the local high schools as well as the
local universities and use the students who were willing to participate in the
study. Based on the number of students in Escambia county between high school
and college aged students I would like to have five thousand survey responses
and two thousand five hundred volunteers for focus groups. I would allow
students to participate in both aspects of the study if they were interested in
doing so.


            For my study it will be
important to base a 10-15 question survey on more than simply if a student is a
cyberbully or how often they bully others but rather physical aspects of the
bully. The survey would be completely anonymous and would ask questions about
whether they have cyberbullied someone before, followed up with questions about
gender, body size, and the gender and body types of their victims. For the
focus groups I would split the participants up in groups of 6-8 based on age
and gender. I would focus on questions about why they may or may not be
inclined to bully others online. I would then combine the data I collected and
use it in order to answer my research question.

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