Running head: CYBERBULLYING 1
Institutional Affiliation:
Traditionally, bullying refers to an intensified and intentional behavior directed towards
individuals, sustained over time, and aimed at hurting the victims because of the relative inability
to defend themselves (Kowalski, Giumetti, Schroeder, & Lattanner, 2014). However, the
development of mobile technology, increased internet penetration, and digital age continues to
transform the forms of bullying into a collective electronic mode commonly termed as
cyberbullying. Smith et al. (2008) defined cyberbullying as, "an aggressive, intentional act
carried by a group or individuals, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly and over time
against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself," (p. 376). That is, cyberbullying hurts
the victims socially, psychologically, and physically. The various forms of cyberbullying include
abusive texts and emails, hurtful texts and imitating others c=sarcastically in social media.
Demeaning videos, images, online exclusion and humiliation and libelous online gossip or char
would also pass as cyberbullying. Slonje, Smith, & Frisén (2013) emphasize that analysis of
cyberbullying diversity should concentrate on the media used (mobile phones and internet) and
forms (email, social media, texts, and charts), and behavior fueling it (threats, exclusion, and
Cyberbullying is a complex problem because its victims feel helpless. With over 87% of
the Canadian households and 40% of the globe connected to the internet, cyberbullying crawls
into the living rooms, at work, public domain, and schools (, 2014). The prevalence of
cyberbullying cases could be higher because no specific tracking of such cases exists except for
victimization surveys done periodically and people do not often report the cases unless the levels
are severe. Patchin (2016) indicated that about 34% of the students who participated in the US
national survey reported cyberbullying in their lifetimes. Another 22.5% and 20.1% cited hurtful
comments and rumors as the most common forms cyberbullying they experienced. Surprisingly,
the students confirmed that they experienced cyberbullying two or more times within the last 30
days before the survey. Again, 12% of students interviewed admitted to having cyberbullied
others through posting hurtful comments online over the last 30 days preceding the survey.
Adolescent girls are more likely to become victims of cyberbullying at 36.7% compared to
30.5% boys (Patchin, 2016).
According to (2015), 2% - 8% of Canadian middle school and high
school students admitted to having experienced bullying at least, once every week while another
4% -10% of those surveyed admitted to being the bullies. Again, 73% of the victims attributed
their bullying to aggressive texts, instant messaging, and emails. Just as (Patchin, 2016), (2015) affirmed that girls are more vulnerable to cyberbullying that boys.
McAfee (2014) also indicated that 87% of the US teens and preteens had suffered cyberbullying
in their lifetime. The above figures confirm that statistics about cyberbullying is not exact
because no single entity in the world dedicates its resources to tracking cyberbullying evidence
over the web. Therefore, people relying on regular surveys. It confirms that problem of
cyberbullying could be bigger than reported and that makes it a social pandemic that might
explode anytime.
Characteristics of Victims and Perpetrators of Cyberbullying
In most cases, victims of cyberbullying show characteristics because of the stress related
their hurtful experience. The victims show signs of depression, reluctance to attend school, and
poor progress in education. Additionally, cyberbully victims exhibit moodiness, anxiety, high
aggression levels, and avoidance of online activity such as Facebook or Twitter. In other words,
the victims react by limiting their engagement in online platforms despite active partition before
cyberbullying event. Children experiencing cyberbully may show nervousness when receiving
instant messages or text notifications.
On the other hand, bullies or perpetrators of cyberbullying show obsession with being
online all the times as a way of sustaining their attacks on victims. Children who use their
computers or smartphones in secrecy or switches screen whenever another person in the family
approaches are mostly cyber bullies. Similarly, cyberbullies may have a second account of
Facebook, email or Twitter to hide their real identity from their victims and laugh excessively
when using their computers of phones. Children with low self-esteem, cowards, signs of
delinquency, feel extreme aggression, and engage in substance abuse are more likely to be
cyberbullies than others. Lastly, perpetrators of cyberbully come from dysfunctional families
where parents ignore affairs of children or take less time interacting them.
Criminology Theories
Cyberbullying falls under criminal or civil law depending on the situation at hand. It can
result in crimes such as defamation, social exclusion, creating an unsafe environment, and
harassment. The fact that cyberbullying can amount to prison begs the question as to what
criminology theories can apply to it. The behavioral theory of criminology suggests that all
human behavior whether violate or not is a result of continuous social learning (Nicholson, &
Higgins, 2016). In other words, behavioral theorists would argue that no one is born with violate
character, but they learn to think and act that way depending on the people or activity around
them. People learn behaviors through observation and experiences one goes through when
interacting with friends or family members. Apply behavioral theory to cyberbullying; no one is
a cyberbully by design. However, perpetrators of cyberbullying learn their crime through
interaction with people who does the same (Li, Holt, Bossler, & May, 2015). For instance, a
female student who participates in a gossip group may end up a cyberbully when the group
sustains the gossip for a longer time. Similarly, a young boy who observes his brother cyberbully
others over the phone or social media is more likely to engage in the same act. Parents who
engage in violence more often can encourage their kids to develop aggressive behavior, which
enhances chances of acting aggressively towards others through online socialization platforms.
Therefore, understanding the reason for individuals becoming cyberbullies starts with knowing
their social background.
Apart from behavioral theories, one can understand the concept of cyberbullying through
routine activities theory of criminology. According to routine activity theory, the sequence or
rather organization of events in a particular society develops avenues for crime (Branic, 2015).
That is, everyday activities of individuals such as work, means of social engagement, school,
groups of socialization, and ways of travel significantly determine the frequency, where, how,
and to whom the crime happens. Since opportunities vary in time, space, and among different
people, the degree of committing a crime varies as well. Therefore, routine activity theory
advocates for analysis of societal structure and existing opportunities in reducing crimes.
When applied to cyberbullying, routine activity theorist would argue that individuals
engage in cyberbullying because they have structures that facilitate the vice. For example, teens
and preteens with access to smartphones and the internet are more likely to engage in teasing
each other. The same way, the pop culture rules most of the youths in this digital era thus making
structures in the society to facilitate cyberbullying. Routine activity theory points at three
facilitators of crime: offender, possible target, and incapable guardian (Holt, & Bossler, 2008). In
the case of cyberbullying, the perpetrators (offenders) can have a target in different forms. For
instance, the kid in the neighborhood pisses him or her off, the fellow student in class who does
something that offends, and many others. Most of the parents are busy in their jobs and have
limited time to interact with their children, which creates a perfect environment for a cyberbully
to thrive. In short, routine activity theory would best explain the concept of cyberbullying.
Branic, N. (2015). Routine Activities Theory. The Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, 1-3.
CIRA | Canadian Internet Registration Authority - FACTBOOK 2014 | The Canadian Internet.
(2014). Retrieved 3 April 2017, from
Cyber Bullying Statistics in Canada|NoBullying|. (2015). Retrieved 3 April
2017, from
Holt, T., & Bossler, A. (2008). Examining the Applicability of Lifestyle-Routine Activities
Theory for Cybercrime Victimization. Deviant Behavior, 30(1), 1-25.
Kowalski, R., Giumetti, G., Schroeder, A., & Lattanner, M. (2014). Bullying in the digital age: A
critical review and meta-analysis of cyberbullying research among youth. Psychological
Bulletin, 140(4), 1073-1137.
Li, C., Holt, T., Bossler, A., & May, D. (2015). Examining the Mediating Effects of Social
Learning on the Low Self-ControlCyberbullying Relationship in a Youth
Sample. Deviant Behavior, 37(2), 126-138.
McAfee,. (2014). Cyberbullying Triples According to New McAfee "2014 Teens and the Screen
study" | McAfee Press Release. Retrieved 3 April 2017, from
Slonje, R., Smith, P. K., & Frisén, A. (2013). The nature of cyberbullying, and strategies for
prevention. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), 26-32. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.05.024
Nicholson, J., & Higgins, G. (2016). Social Structure Social Learning Theory: Preventing Crime
and Violence. Preventing Crime And Violence, 11-20.
Patchin, J. (2016). 2016 Cyberbullying Data - Cyberbullying Research Center. Cyberbullying
Research Center. Retrieved 3 April 2017, from
Smith, P., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M., Fisher, S., Russell, S., & Tippett, N. (2008).
Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. Journal of Child
Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(4), 376-385.

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