On 30 March 2020 at 11.00 Karin Naruskov will defence her doctoral thesis „The Perception of Cyberbullying among Estonian Students According to Cyberbullying Types and Criteria“.
Associate Professor Piret Luik (PhD; University of Tartu)
Professor Ersilia Menesini (PhD; University of Florence)
Professor Maritta Välimäki (PhD; University of Turku)
The concept of cyberbullying is often defined based on and in parallel with the definition of traditional bullying. Cyberbullying researchers have begun to question whether and to what extent criteria specific to traditional bullying apply in the cyber environment. It has been suggested that there might be some cyber-specific criteria; for instance, anonymity and publicity, which could describe bullying that occurs in the cyber world more accurately. Furthermore, researchers have raised the issue of whether the definition of cyberbullying is consistent with how students perceive the phenomenon. This thesis focuses on how students perceive cyberbullying based on suggested criteria (intentionality, repetition, imbalance of power, publicity, anonymity) and the type of cyberbullying behaviour (written-verbal cyberbullying, visual cyberbullying, impersonation, exclusion). Data was collected via focus group interviews and a questionnaire. In both cases, scenarios were used to collect the data. These scenarios described situations between a victim and a bully that could be considered cyberbullying. The results of the study showed that two criteria were important for students when labelling scenarios as cyberbullying: imbalance of power and anonymity. In the context of cyberbullying types, it was easier for students to label the visual type and impersonation as cyberbullying and these types were also considered to be more serious than the written-verbal type and exclusion. In terms of gender and age, we found that there were no diametrically opposite differences on how boys and girls and students from different age groups labelled scenarios as cyberbullying based on the criteria. However, differences appeared in how students perceived the severity of the scenarios. In general, boys perceived cyberbullying as more serious than girls, and this was also the case with two cyber-specific criteria (publicity and anonymity). In terms of age, differences in severity evaluations also appeared in the context of cyber-specific criteria. In terms of gender, it seemed that these were more important to younger students (12–13 years) than older students (15–16 years). The practical value of the work lies in providing suggested themes that should be addressed with students at home and in the school environment to help boys and girls and students of different ages cope with the specifics of cyber communication. Furthermore, some recommendations are also provided for the definition and measurement of cyberbullying.