Study reveals cyber-bullying isn’t a just girls’ thing

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A recent study led by an academic at Robert Gordon University has found that the current focus on cultivating online safety awareness among teenage girls may have resulted in the message that boys’ behaviour online does not need safeguards.

In the sample more adolescent males admitted to both being bullied (50 percent) and carrying out bullying behaviour online (68 percent) compared to adolescent females (33 percent and 49 percent respectively).

The survey, titled ‘UK Teens’ safety awareness online – Is it a girl thing?’, was conducted to gain observations from young people across the UK on the subject of online privacy. It investigates the phenomenon of ‘frape’ among young adults in the UK which is an issue that has not been specifically studied in previous research into cyber-bullying.

Dr Sarah Pedersen of Aberdeen Business School led the study in collaboration with Shed Media Scotland (a Shed Media company) – a leading creator and distributor of audio visual content. This partnership was coordinated by Interface – the knowledge connection for business, a centrally-funded body which specialises in matching businesses with academics from Scotland’s 25 higher education and research institutes.

The study was carried out as an online flash quiz for a groundbreaking MTV.co.uk interactive drama created by Shed Media – Being Victor. The findings, which have just been submitted in the form of an academic article to the Journal of Youth Studies, suggest that this sample of 226 British young adults were mostly aware of the risks they might encounter online. However, male respondents were less safety aware than female respondents.

Dr Pedersen, who is a Reader in the Department of Communication, Marketing and Media, explained: “This result may be related to social norms about male adolescence. However it may also be as a result of online safety campaigns that have been more targeted at girls, and have therefore neglected to instill the same awareness among adolescent males.”

“Despite previous researchers finding that girls were more likely to suffer cyber-bullying and to be cyber-bullies themselves, our research found that more male respondents reported both being bullied and bullying behaviour online.

“On a holistic level, the survey revealed that over half of all respondents – both male and female – with social networking profiles had been subjected to some sort of cyber-bullying or online harassment, but 40% admitted to behaving in this manner themselves. However, ‘frape’ was considered by respondents as a reciprocal rather than bullying phenomenon.”

Dr Siobhán Jordan, Director of Interface commented: “This research has come at crucial time for the industry and adds an important insight into a growing issue. We worked with Shed Media on scoping up their particular requirements and ascertained the capability and capacity across our academic partners to deliver the project to the tight production timescales required. ”

Moving forward, Dr Pedersen is planning a further investigation into the subject focusing specifically on UK young adults’ use of Facebook.

Additional survey findings

  • The study revealed that only a fifth (18 per cent) of the sample did not have a social networking profile.
  • Of the respondents involved in the survey, the majority (60 per cent) make use of privacy settings on social networking sites, with most (over half) of females indicating they are selective over who has access to their information.
  • A large proportion of social networkers are also wise enough to hide from their future employers, with a further two thirds (63 per cent) of the sample stating they are aware that educational establishments and employers carry out routine checks on profiles.

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