Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Cyber-Aggression among Portuguese Adolescents: A Study on Perpetration, Victim Offender Overlap and Parental Supervision

Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Criminology

Cyber-Aggression among Portuguese Adolescents: A Study on Perpetration, Victim Offender Overlap and Parental Supervision

Article excerpt


The increasing use of information and communication technologies (ICT) has transformed the process of human socialisation. ICT has brought a change in the risk and exposure of users by facilitating the discovery of information in a more invasive way (Nobles, Reyns, Fox, & Fisher, 2012). The Internet has caused many changes in the field of socialisation, access and exchange of information and has become an asset to all users. However, this tool can also be used as a means of surveillance and intrusion and offers anonymity to users who so desire (Carvalho, 2011).

In 2012, the Eurostat report of ICT usage found that 60% of individuals use the Internet daily and about a third used it on mobile devices (e.g., cell phones) away from home or work (Seybert, 2012). Other studies show that the juvenile population presents the most digital dexterity. For example, the study Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, sponsored by WHO in Portugal and led by the Social Adventure Project team, revealed that 98.6% of Portuguese adolescents aged 11, 13 and 15 years have at least one computer at home and 92.9% have Internet access (Matos et al., 2010). More recently, a European study with young Portuguese people between 9 and 16 years of age (n= 25142) revealed that 53% used the Internet daily (compared to the EU average of 60%) and 67% (third highest rate in the EU) access the Internet through their own laptops (Haddon, Livingstone, & EU Kids Online Network, 2012). According to the study, Portugal presented one of the lowest averages of the age of first-time Internet use at 10 years of age.

This growing diffusion of ICT in daily lives leads to greater visibility of and increasing concern about the possible negative experiences in the virtual environment, especially in young people, given their greater vulnerability to victimisation and perpetration of cyber-aggression (Bilic, 2013; Pereira & Matos, 2015), including cyber-stalking.

The definition of cyber-stalking is still somewhat controversial, but researchers have reached a consensus on some of its core elements. They agree that it is characterised by an intentional, repeated and unwanted behaviour pattern and is a set of behaviours in which an individual, group or organisation uses ICT to harass another individual, group or organisation (Bocij, 2004). Although some authors view cyber-stalking as a variation of traditional stalking that incorporates special circumstances (e.g., Nobles et al., 2012), others assume that cyber-stalking covers a range of behaviours that are not associated with stalking in the real-world context (e.g., Bocij, 2003).

Operationalising cyber-stalking, in terms of the amount of required behaviours and duration of the conduct, is no easy task. As proposed by Bocij (2004), any context, in terms of time and specific behaviours, can involve serious criminal and social constraints; thus, it is not legitimate to impose a mandatory time limit for the experience of cyber-stalking or a specific number of behaviours (Pereira & Matos, 2015). Its operationalisation must pass a definition broad enough to include all possible experiences.

For the purposes of this study, cyber-stalking is defined as a set of behaviours of persecution or virtual harassment, with singular or multiple occurrences, intentional and unintended by the victims; it involves the victimisation/aggression of at least one behaviour that occurs two or more times and/or two or more behaviours that occur at least once. This definition allows for approaching the study of the legal operationalisation in other countries (e.g., USA, Australia), which requires two or more episodes for victimisation/aggression to be considered a "pattern" of unwanted harassment.

There are few published studies about cyber-stalking in the age of adolescence. However, it is a growing phenomenon (Alexy, Burgess, Baker, & Smoyak, 2005), and some recent studies show the relevance of the phenomenon. …

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