Academic journal article Trames

Estonian Students' Perception and Definition of Cyberbullying

Academic journal article Trames

Estonian Students' Perception and Definition of Cyberbullying

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The issue of a construct definition is a relevant problem in different research areas, especially when dealing with new areas of research such as cyberbullying. In this area an increasing number of recent studies have focused on the issues of defining and measuring cyberbullying (Gradinger et al. 2010, Grigg 2010, Menesini and Nocentini 2009, Vandebosch and Cleemput 2008). In many cases the cyberbullying definition has been based on Olweus' original bullying definition (Hinduja and Patchin 2009, Smith et al. 2008). According to Dan Olweus (1999:10) we can say: "a student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other students". This definition emphasizes three criteria that are important in order to define bullying behaviour: intentionality, repetition, and imbalance of power (Olweus 1999). Although the general definition of bullying is still relevant, its expressions have changed dramatically over several years (Smith et al. 2002) to include the recent form of cyberbullying or bullying in the virtual domain. Following the Olweus definition, Smith et al. (2008:376) have defined cyberbullying as: "an aggressive, intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly, and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself. This definition refers directly to the definition of traditional bullying; the only difference is that technological devices are used for carrying out the attacks. From this scientific definition it seems that cyberbullying is just one expression of traditional bullying. However, some recent contributors have expressed doubts around the traditional bullying criteria suggested by Olweus (1999): these are not always easily distinguishable, recognizable, and sometimes even sufficient in the cyber world context (Hinduja and Patchin 2009, Kowalski and Limber 2007, Menesini and Nocentini 2009, Shariff 2008, Slonje and Smith 2008). In addition, it is assumed that there are new cyber-specific criteria that are particular to communication with new technologies (i.e. publicity vs. privacy and anonymity vs. known person) (Menesini and Nocentini 2009, Nocentini et al. 2010, Slonje and Smith 2008). Taken together, these considerations highlight how cyberbullying should be considered partially as a new phenomenon and researchers need to investigate it more thoroughly (Li 2007).

Apart from different scholars' definitions we must also consider possible differences between researchers, children, and adolescents. Several studies on traditional bullying highlight how, for young participants, the definition is not always consistent with the scientific one (Menesini et al. 2002, Smith et al. 2002, Vaillancourt et al. 2008). One of the differences seems to relate to terms used to denote the problem in different languages, another relates to different perspectives of the problem (children vs. adolescents, adults vs. young participants) (Smith et al. 2002, Smorti et al. 2003).

According to Vandebosch and Cleemput (2008) it is necessary to develop a clear definition of cyberbullying that is consistent with students' perceptions because the lack of conceptual clarity may lead us to a situation where researchers and respondents perceive the phenomenon differently. Several qualitative studies have already focused on the issue of students' perceptions of cyberbullying underlying the role of some traditional criteria but also the specificities of this problem (Grigg 2010, Mishna et al. 2009, Vandebosch and Cleemput 2008).

The primary focus of this paper is to investigate students' perception and definition of cyberbullying. More precisely, our aim is to know which term Estonian students use to define the problem and to analyse which criteria are relevant for the Estonian students' definition of cyberbullying.

1.1. Five criteria of cyberbullying

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