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Individual, cultural and behavioral correlates of cyberbullying in college students
AuthorGibb, Zebbedia G.
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The growth of the research body surrounding the aggressive use of personal technologies, including but not limited to smartphones and personal tablets, has raised both definitional and measurement issues. The debate surrounding the distinguishing characteristics includes both the general definitions of the global terms (e.g., cyberbullying) as well as what the terms used in the definition mean (e.g., repetition). These characteristics are typically included in definitions of cyberbullying behavior, but are not always measured in studies examining the phenomenon. In Study 1, 397 participants from a Western university completed a survey for partial course credit. In this study, the relationship between the distinguishing characteristics and engagement in cyberbullying behaviors was examined, finding that individuals who reported engaging in cyberbullying behaviors reported doing so repeatedly, and engaged in several different types of cyberbullying behavior. These individuals also reported intending to cause a significant amount of distress, and believed that they were more powerful socially than their targets. Second, despite the ongoing debate regarding the definition of cyberbullying, the need to develop profiles of individuals who engage in cyberbullying behaviors is great as the consequences of such behaviors for the victims can be severe. Some of the factors included in previous profiles replicated, with sub-clinical psychopathy and positive victim status significantly predicting engagement. Acceptance of attitudes supportive of cyberbullying as well as acceptance of culture of honor norms were also predictive of engagement. Study 1 also examined behavioral responses to a specific cyberbullying behavior, ostracism. In Study 2, 239 participants from a Western university who did not complete Study 1 completed a behavioral study examining exclusion from an online group. Although nonsignificant, the results of Study 2 suggest that individuals who have previously engaged in cyberbullying behaviors may be more likely to engage in these behaviors in response to being a target of the behaviors. The need for better measures of cyberbullying, and the need for both prevention and programs that reduce the negative consequences associated with cyberbullying in college populations is discussed.