Cyberbullying Victimization among Turkish Online Social Utility Members

Article excerpt

Introduction

Bullying, which can be defined as intentional and aggressive behavior involving an imbalance of power and strength (Kowalski, Limber, & Agatston, 2008), is no longer considered a natural part of growing up since the society has began to understand the deep emotional damage it can cause (Anderson & Sturm, 2007). Several interesting and comprehensive studies have recently been produced regarding school bullying (Hamarus & Kaikkonen, 2008; Jacobson, 2010; Lee, 2010; Shore, 2009) and workplace bullying (Enarsen, Hoel, Zapf & Cooper, 2003; Ferfolja, 2010; Lester, 2009; Roscigno, Lopez & Hodson, 2009) including contributive bodies devoted to research on bullying such as the Bergen Bullying Research Group under Universitas Bergensis. While the issue needs constant research to improve the soundness of the theoretical framework and the quality of everyday practices to prevent bullying, emerging technologies have transformed the everyday experiences of individuals including the ways they bully one another. New information and communication technologies (ICT) with higher levels of interaction and influence on individuals' lives have urged scholars to expand the traditional definition of bullying to the borderless digital world, as technology users are now able to select from a variety of new tools to bully one another including e-mails, instant messaging programs, personal profile Web sites, voting booths, and chat rooms. In this regard, a new form of bullying emerges. Variously referred to as technobullying, electronic bullying, online bullying, or cyberbullying in different resources (Beale & Hall, 2007; McGrath, 2007), this new form involves harassment that is directed at peers through ICTs (Beran & Li, 2005).

Lee's (2004) survey of the literature shows that among the varying definitions of the term, six key concepts were common in most definitions: intent, hurt, repetition, duration, power conflict, and provocation. Willard (2005) defined cyberbullying as sending or posting harmful or cruel contents using the digital communication devices and classified the ways cyberbullying may occur as flaming (sending angry, rude or vulgar messages directed at individuals] privately or to online groups), harassment (sending a person offensive messages repeatedly), cyberstalking (harassment with threats of harm, or is highly intimidating), denigration (posting harmful, untrue or cruel statements about other people), masquerade (pretending to be someone else and sending material to make that person look bad, or get into trouble), outing and trickery (sending or posting material that contains private or embarrassing information about a person, engaging in tricks to solicit embarrassing information to make that information public, and forwarding private messages and images), and exclusion (actions that intentionally exclude a person from the community of an online group).

Since users have the ability to communicate anonymously on the Internet, they tend to have a lower level of self-awareness, which leads them in turn, to react more aggressively to other individuals than they would otherwise in face-to-face communication settings (Aricak et al., 2008; Beale & Hall, 2007; Sparling, 2004). In addition, perpetrators often lack empathy for victims; they do not witness first hand, the impact of their actions (Froese-Germain, 2008). However, individuals who are deliberately antagonized and intimidated by others are often hurt psychologically. Victims of cyber-bullying reported a variety of negative consequences including anger and sadness (Beran & Li, 2005). A significant relationship between cyberbullying and emotional distress (Juvonen & Gross, 2008; Ybarra, 2004; Ybarra, Mitchell, Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2006) and a correlation between psychological vulnerability and achievement existed (Nishina, Juvonen, & Witkow, 2005) which supported the argument of Feinberg and Robey (2008) that cyberbullying disrupts and affects all aspects of the victims' lives. …