Aggression and Victimization in Instant Messaging, Blogging, and Face-to-Face Interactions

By and — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Mar 9, 2012

In the last decade, online communication has increased dramatically as a format for social interaction, particularly among adolescents. In 2005, researchers identified approximately 21 million American teenagers as internet users, with use surging at the 7th grade level and peaking between 11th and 12th grade (1).

It was found that 54 percent of American children reported using a computer for recreational purposes daily, with 28 percent spending more than one hour a day in recreational computer use, which more than doubles the amount of time reported in 1999 (2).

Given this increase, a growing body of research has focused on bullying that occurs while communicating online. The term used for this sort of behavior is cyberbullying. Bullying has long been a concern for researchers, parents, administrators, and teachers, because

  • bullies tend to have long-term behavioral difficulties, such as being at an increased risk of substance use and domestic violence (3, 4),
  • and victims are at an increased risk of depression, low self-esteem, and peer rejection across time (3, 5, 6).

Instant Messaging and Blogging

Adolescents spend much of their time online instant messaging and blogging.

  • Instant messaging enables adolescents to create private chatrooms with their peers who are defined on a specific list of people with whom they wish to interact (7). The majority (57 percent) of participants in our study reported using instant messaging.
  • Blogging consists of updating a personal webpage made up of posts, which are arranged chronologically and involve ideas, opinions, photos, poetry, and commentary. A bit less than half (41 percent) of our participants reported blogging between a few times a week and everyday.

The purpose of our research was to address questions regarding adolescents’ online aggression (or cyberbulling) toward peers, specifically with respect to instant messaging and blogging. We also examined the relation between their online bullying and face-to-face bullying, as well as the relation of adolescents' frequency of use of instant messaging and blogging with both online and face-to-face bullying.

The research was done through almost 500 adolescents (ages 12-17) who completed a survey about their online communication. Our survey was adapted from the Direct & Indirect Aggression Scales (8).

What We Found

  • Adolescents who spent more time online reported that they engaged in cyberbullying or were the victims of cyberbullying more frequently than their peers who spent less time online.
  • Adolescents engaged in cyberbullying more so than being the victims of cyberbullying.
  • Females engaged in instant messaging and blogging more than males did.
  • Males reported higher levels of face-to-face bullying than did females, but there was no sex difference in cyberbullying.

Our results also addressed the relation between cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying and we found that

  • Youth who engaged in higher levels of cyberbullying also engaged in higher levels of face-to-face bullying.
  • Youth who were victims of cyberbullying also reported being victims of face-to-face bullying.
  • 7th grade males reported being victims of face-to-face bullying more so than 7th grade females.
  • 11th grade males reported being victims of cyberbullying and victims of face-to-face bullying more so than 11th grade females.
  • Regardless of how much face-to-face bullying students reported, the more they used instant messaging, the more they engaged in cyberbullying. This suggests that communicating online may influence youth to engage in cyberbullying, irrespective of the degree to which they are aggressive in their face-to-face interactions.
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