Cyber bullying in Chinese Web Forums: An examination of nature and
& Thomas J. Holt
Michigan State University, USA
There is an emerging
body of research examining the problem of cyber bullying in juvenile
populations. These studies provide significant insight to the
frequency and correlates of cyber bullying victimization. Few,
however, have considered the content of messages used by bullies in
order to understand the most common forms of bullying and the ways
that victims are targeted. Additionally, little research has
considered the prevalence of bullying in Asian nations despite their
increasing connectivity and large population of young Internet users.
In order to address this gap in the literature, this study utilizes a
sample of 374 threads from web forums for multiple middle and high
schools throughout China. The findings are used to understand the
forms of bullying that occur in online environments, and the ways that
victims and bullies interact. The findings demonstrate the dynamics of
cyber bullying in a cross-cultural context, and the prospective policy
implications for schools and parents.
online harassment, China, web forums.
Adolescent school violence is a common
and significant problem in many countries across the globe (Arseneault,
Walsh, Trzesniewski, Newcombe, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2006; Beran & Li,
2005, 2007; Erdur-Baker, 2010; Frost, 1991; Hazler, Hoover, & Oliver,
1992; Ma, 2001; Olweus, 1993; Sharp, Thompson, & Arora, 2000; Wang,
Iannotti, & Nansel, 2009). Often, violence among youths involves some
component of bullying, wherein individuals repeatedly experience some
negative action by another young person who attempts to disrupt,
injure, or otherwise cause discomfort for their victim (Olweus, 1993).
The impact of bullying can be quite severe, often causing depression
and health concerns for victims (Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpela, Marttunen,
Rimpela, & Rantanen, 1999; Klomek et al., 2008; Kumpulainen & Rasanen,
2000; Nansel, Overpeck, Haynie, Ruan, & Scheidt, 2003; Nansel et al.,
2001; van der Wal, de Wit, & Hirasing, 2003), and attempted suicide (Klomek,
Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld, & Gould, 2007; Klomek et al., 2009).
In fact, some researchers argue that bullying is a major public health
concern requiring significant research and resources (Nansel, Overpeck,
Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton, & Scheidt, 2001).
As the Internet and computer-mediated
communications technologies are increasingly inexpensive and
available, the opportunities for individuals to engage in bullying via
electronic methods, or cyber bullying, has increased significantly (Beran
& Li, 2005, 2007; Finkelhor, Mitchell, & Wolack 2000; Hinduja &
Patchin, 2008, 2009; Snider & Borel, 2004; Wolack, Mitchell, &
Finkelhor, 2006; Ybarra 2004). Research on cyber bullying has
primarily focused on student populations in the United States and
Canada, due to several high profile incidents where cyber bullying was
related to incidents of suicide among youth (Beran & Li, 2005, 2007;
Finkelhor et al., 2000; Hinduja & Patchin, 2008, 2009; Li, 2006;
Marcum, 2008; Wolack et al., 2006; Ybarra, 2004). These studies
indicate that there is significant emotional and mental health
concerns generated by cyber bullying experiences (e.g. Hinduja &
Patchin 2008; van der Wal et al., 2003; Ybarra 2004). Few researchers
have, however, actively examined the content of bullying messages to
consider the frequency of multiple forms of bullying, and the tenor of
the messages posted by bullies to understand how messages are
developed and targeted (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008, 2009). As a
consequence, it is unclear how the process and experience of bullying
Considering the significant challenges
posed by cyber bullying, researchers across the globe are beginning to
examine this phenomenon (Erdur-Baker, 2010; Erdur-Baker & Kavsut,
2007; Li, 2008; McLoughlin, Meyricke, & Burgess, 2009; Wolack et al.,
2006). Studies utilizing US populations suggest that cyber bullying
is a common problem among juvenile populations, though prevalence
rates vary depending on the sample and definition of bullying used
(Marcum, 2010; Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; Wolack et al., 2006). Similar
research has found cyber bullying to be a growing problem in Australia
(McLoughlin et al., 2009), Canada (Beran & Li, 2005, 2007), and Turkey
(Erdur-Baker, 2010; Erdur-Baker & Kavsut, 2007). Few researchers have,
however, examined the issue of cyber bullying in developing nations,
particularly Asia (Huang & Chou, 2010; Li, 2008). In fact, China is
the most populace nation in the developing world, and has experienced
an explosion in Internet use over the last decade (Central
Intelligence Agency, 2010). In fact, one of the only studies
examining cyber bullying in China found that 33 percent of children
had experienced cyber bullying, while a very small percentage actually
engaged in cyber bullying themselves (Li, 2008). Chinese students
appear more likely to report victimization experiences to teachers or
adults suggesting that adults are more likely to intervene on behalf
of a victim (Li, 2008). Furthermore, most students reported being
victimized through multiple electronic media sources, while chatroom
or message board victimization was the most common single form
reported (Li, 2008).
In order to better understand the
nature of cyber bullying in a cross-national context, this study will
utilize a sample of 374 threads from web forums for various schools
throughout China. The data provides direct information on the forms of
cyber bullying used by young people in public settings, as well as
language and comments prevalent in these messages. In addition, this
study considers the ways that bullies and their targets interact to
understand the social dynamics of public bullying. The policy
implications of this study for parents and schools are explored in
Data and Methods
Given the prominence of cyber bullying
in public forums and chat rooms in China (Li 2008), this qualitative
study uses a sample of threads from school-specific public web forums
designed for students to discuss events and issues with others.
Web forums are composed of posts where individuals can ask a
question, give an opinion, respond to other posters, or simply share
past experiences (Holt, 2010; Mann & Sutton, 1998). Others respond to
the remarks with posts of their own to create a running conversation
or dialogue. Since posters often respond to the ideas of others, the
exchanges present in the posts of a forum may “resemble a kind of
marathon focused discussion group” (Mann & Sutton, 1998, p. 210).
This form of computer-mediated communication is an excellent medium
for cyber bullying because individuals can directly transmit their
thoughts and feelings about others in a relatively anonymous setting (Hinduja
& Patchin, 2008; Li, 2008). Thus, this data can speak directly to
experiences of cyber bullying in the offenders’ own words (Holt,
2010), as well as document how bullies, victims, and neutral parties
respond to these posts.
Due to the volume of on-line content,
the researchers attempted to identify a website with active forums for
multiple middle and high schools throughout China in order to capture
conversations in the populations most like to engage in or experience
bullying. A publicly accessible site was also desirable, because it
would not require individuals to actually register with the site to
examine posted content (Holt, 2010). As a result, virtually anyone can
access the forum without the need to interact with posters, reducing
the potential for researcher contamination or bias (Holt, 2010;
Silverman, 2001). We also sought forums that were moderated by anyone
other than school faculty or staff to better understand how students
engage one another when outside of the immediate intervention of
school officials. Finally, a site with a large number of existing or
archived posts was preferred since frequent posting suggests high
activity, interest, and information exchange (Holt, 2007, 2010). Only
one site met all of these criteria, and the content of each school
specific subforum were examined to create a consistent data point.
These forums were not moderated by school faculty or staff, and this
sample consists of a purposive selection of 374 threads from 21 school
specific forums. This strategy generated a copious amount of data,
and a wide range of posts (see Table 1).
Table 1: School Forum
Total Number of
Total Number of
The threads were translated by a native
speaker, printed, and analyzed by hand to determine the forms of
bullying that occur and their prevalence across the forums. A content
analysis was conducted using codes derived Willard’s (2004) typology
of cyber bullying. Specifically, each post was examined and
classified based on the language used in the post, including swearing
or foul language, as well as the use of exclamatory punctuation. Any
post where the user directed an angry or irritated message directly
targeting another user was considered “flaming” (Willard, 2004). For
example, the use of exclamation points, all capital letters, and angry
language or swearing directed at another user were considered evidence
of flaming. Denigration was determined based on the use of messages
where an individual made statements about an individual’s character or
behavior that appear to make a value judgment about that person. For
example, the authors coded any post where the individual referred to
another person as “slutty,” “stupid,” or “ugly” as denigrating because
of their negative impact on the victim (Willard, 2004).
Masquerading posts were determined
based on the use of language that suggested a person was making an
unusual request, such as the desire for sexual encounters with
strangers (Bocij, 2004; Willard, 2004). Additionally, responses from
other users questioning the veracity, validity or tenor of the user’s
request were treated as indicators of masquerading. Exclusionary
posts were classified based on the use of terms or phrases that
specifically stated a certain individual would not be allowed to
participate in an activity or friendship network (Willard, 2004).
Harassment was defined as an individual being repeatedly targeted by
others for varying types of bullying. Finally, stalking involved the
repeated experience of bullying messages that directly target an
individual’s personal safety or attempt to general social scorn
Inductive methods derived from grounded
theory techniques were used to explore the social interactions between
bullies, victims, and forum users (Corbin & Strauss, 1990). This
methodology is particularly useful as its procedures permit the
researcher to develop a thorough, well-integrated examination of any
social phenomena. Any concepts found within the data must be
identified multiple times through comparisons to identify any
similarities (Corbin & Strauss, 1990). In this way, findings are
validated by their repeated appearances or absences in the data,
ensuring they are derived and grounded in the data. Specifically,
posters repeated comments or observations relating to their behavioral
or attitudinal responses to bullying messages were used to highlight
the ways that either party responds to messages posed in these
forums. These strategies structure the analysis, with examples and
quotes drawn from the data where appropriate.
In examining the content of threads
from these forums, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of
posts involved three forms of bullying: flaming, denigration, and
outing (see Table 2). Each form of bullying was used alone, and in
combination with other forms to cause some harm to the victim. Due to
the significant overlap between each form of bullying observed, the
findings are presented based on the primary form of bullying. To that
end, the most common form of bullying involved denigrating comments
about others. For example, there were 100 unique instances of
denigration within threads, largely focused on an individual’s
appearance or sexual activities. This was exemplified in a post where
an individual described a female classmate, stating:
heavy make-up, rubbish, ugly,
disgusting; pretending to be naive; you come out to freak people out;
are you sexually available?; i'm speechless, really have to find some
rapers [rapists] take turns to rape you; do you have a huge breast? I
want to feel about it; are you narcissist?; it's a courage that you
could still live in the world..
Similar comments were observed across
the forums, as in this post by ZYY threatening the safety of their
classmate stating: “don't you feel you are beautiful! Actually you
are more slutty than others. Some day, you'll kneel down to me. Wait
and see.” Furthermore, a user named LQQ wrote: “A very famous
whore LWW, really really slutty. She's had sex for numerous times and
still told her mom she was a virgin. Wherever there's a bed, she'd
have sex with sb.”
Table 2: Forms and
Prevalence of Cyber bullying
Outing and flaming
The consistent use of graphic and
sexual language evident in the previous examples was present across
the forums (Holt, 2007, 2010). In fact, denigrating posts regularly
mocked or exaggerated the sexual activities of other students. Female
students were often targets of comments suggesting they were either
slutty or promiscuous. For example, several individuals spoke out
against the women in an entire grade at an institution in the
ZGH: shameless women in 7th middle
school, already had abortion for 3 times. F… you, want to make out
with us? If you are available for free, I don't want that. Don't
believe women like this.
YCS: there's one in class 6 grade 3,
a real slutty whore, always want to have sex with men, ugly and fat,
disgusting. Her legs are like black hen's legs. Even could freak her
CHY: Girls in class 2 are super
This sort of language was common in
denigrating posts, and often drew support from others. Thus, these
posts support the finding that cyber bullying can involve multiple
participants (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; 2009). Users often joined in
such taunts, adding to the prospective harm victims experienced from
such denigrating comments.
The next most common form of bullying
involved flaming posts directed against other forum users (Table 2).
Flaming posts involved the use of hurtful or angry language, largely
to insult an individual (see Holt, 2007; Willard, 2004). If an
individual posted a message that another forum user felt was
inappropriate or of no value, they noted their dissatisfaction as in
the following exchange:
YUZ: WSJ is not virgin, just
graduated and dumped by someone
ZHY: why did you say ill of this
school? Only a few of them are not virgin, the situation is not that
HHQ: It's none of your f…ing
business. Nobody makes you marry them. It's none of our business to
talk about others' body or life.
Flaming posts typically appeared in
response to an individual’s comments, rather than at the start of a
thread, as demonstrated in the previous example. This was evident
across the forums, as in a thread where an individual called a student
a cheater, which led another to write: “who didn’t copy homework?
Who didn't cheat in exam? Don't you think you are good? How dare you
judge TQY as deep evil thinking?” These examples suggest that
flames may be a way for bullying to occur as a direct result of
individual activities in on-line environments, rather than in the real
world (see Holt, 2007; Willard, 2004).
The use of flaming was particularly
evident in posts where individuals described the presence of “ghosts”
in their schools. In fact, there were 16 posts related to ghosts or
spirits haunting schools. It is not clear why individuals would make
posts related to haunting, though they may generate fear in some forum
users who believe in ghosts. This was demonstrated in the following
ZFU: It's said that some people had
died on the 4th and 5th floors, and also right now. a teacher said a
boy jumped from 6th floor and died, which is kept as a secret never
letting it out to students. If not, our school has to be closed. 3
girls have been there, one died and two went to other schools. it's
UYQ: Hey, don't be silly. I don't
believe that, you might be psychologically problematic. Just go to
Similar fights and flaming posts
developed when individuals made threads related to ghosts. Thus, the
disruptive impact of these posts may be attractive to bullies and
individuals interested in derailing on-going conversations.
Posters also utilized outing messages
to target users, usually in tandem with other forms of bullying (see
Table 2). In these instances, the bully would focus their comments on
the sexual activities of their target in order to embarrass or affect
that person. This was exemplified in the following posts:
NGG: ZYZ had sex with a man outside
NQY: I didn't believe this at the
very beginning, but ZYZ told me herself
GGG: that [ZYZ] ugly, pockmarks all
over her face, the man must be an ugly as well
Though it is not possible to validate
this claim, simply posting sensitive or apparently secret information
can traumatize the prospective victim and put them on the defensive
against other users (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; Willard, 2004). A
proportion of outing posts also threatened to reveal embarrassing
information about a classmate. For instance, the user QQW made the
following post to try to generate negative feedback about their
target, writing: “when he was in grade 6 in elementary school, his
deskmate kicked his chair away, and he sat down [on] the floor. who
wants to know more embarrassing stories, contact me through QQ.”
The poster XZR made a similar post threatening to reveal information
about their target:
I don't feel satisfied with [the
target], but since you are the god of evil, the loner god decides to
give you another chance. moreover, I need to say that I have got all
the personal information of you the god of evil, and will have more
further information. in the upcoming days, your performance will be
important as I decide to punish you or not. if you keep behaving badly
as usual, I'll make 800 copies of your personal information to
everyone, including SS. Wait and see!
This sort of threat can cause
significant fear in prospective victims, and may precipitate flaming
posts and arguments between users over the veracity of the claims.
Thus, outing posts can be a disruptive event in forum exchanges.
A small proportion of threads also
involved the use of masquerading posts on the target’s sexuality or
promiscuity, in keeping with many of the other forms of bullying noted
across the forums (Holt, 2010; Willard, 2004). For example, the user
LWL posted the following message stating: “I am LYM from Class 4
Grade 1, who wants to have sex with me? 25 RMB per night. We could
talk about this in person if you are interested.” In response,
other users made fun of the target, such as QYZ who wrote: “She has
no sense of shame! Really in need of money. Losing face of women.”
In fact, the masquerading posts in this sample of threads indicated
that their target was sexually active and willing to be paid for sex,
as in this post from TZ:
I'm [name removed] I'm expertise in making love/whore!!! Whoever wants to
have sex with me! Come on! I have great technique and I'm sure I'll
make you super comfortable. If I can not satisfy you, no charge then!
It's really cheap, only 30 RMB one night, no matter how many times you
The limited number of masquerading
incidents in the sample may be a result of the difficulty in
identifying when someone is impersonating another forum user (Holt,
2010). The anonymous nature of the Internet and the potential for a
single individual to use multiple nicknames in a forum makes it
challenging to completely validate an on-line identity (Holt, 2010).
To that end, it is difficult to disaggregate an identity depending on
the degree to which the bully incorporates actual information about
the user into their post. The only real indication that an individual
may be attempting to disguise their identity is through variations in
the comments or language used. When the terms and tone of a post
differ from an individual’s general pattern of on-line speech, this
may help users to question the veracity of an individual’s identity
(Holt, 2010). Without such information, it is otherwise difficult to
recognize when a masquerading incident occurs.
Despite the significant volume of
denigrating, outing, flaming, and masquerading posts, it is important
to note there were no instances of exclusion in the forums. This may
be a reflection of the structure of the forum, since anyone can join
the site and lurk or post as they see fit (Holt, 2010). Thus, the
nature of this form of computer mediated communication obviates the
potential for exclusion relative to other private communications like
instant messaging (Holt, 2010). In addition, there were no examples
of serious repeated harassment or stalking incidents in this data. No
user in this sample was a frequent victim of any form of bullying,
suggesting that any individual could be subjected to an incident of
cyber bullying. The lack of such evidence may, however, be a result
of individuals targeting victims through private messaging, email, or
cellular text messages (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; Li, 2008; Wolack et
al., 2006). Thus, public venues may not be the primary mechanism for
stalking and repeated harassment in this sample relative to more
private emails, instant messages, or texts (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008;
Li, 2008; Wolack et al., 2006).
In examining the exchanges present
across the forums, it is clear that bullies did not simply make claims
without being challenged. In fact, there were 37 interactions between
bullies, victims, and defenders in the forums. These exchanges would
often become very heated, involving foul language and flaming
comments. For example, the following posts exemplify the process of
ZHZ: Don’t you feel you are
beautiful! Actually you are more slutty than others. Some day you’ll
kneel down to me. Wait and see
YZU: F..k who said this, I’m the
target, who are you? If you dare, you should come to see me.
ZHZ: I did, it is me who said ill of
you, what do you think? Hit you to death. I’m not bulliable, f..k
you are slutty.
When the prospective targets of bullies
attempted to defend themselves, they lashed out against their
attackers. For example, an individual whose bullies denigrated his
sexuality posted the following message: “I suggest you to come to
see me in person if you don't like me, you are all adults, don't
behave like childish.” In addition, an individual who was called a
sissy wrote: “I’m JQS, come to see me, tell me who you [the thread
starter] are, you might be hit by thundering, or have many sexually
transmitted diseases.” Physical threats were a common response to
bullying, as in this post from a user who was called slutty by several
posters: “JWJ, shit you, you dare let me see you back school. I
might probably snap your legs. I'm not as slutty as you are. You'd
better shut up and keep quiet. The last advice: look out for
yourself.” Others used graphic language to vent their anger and
express outrage at their bullying experience. For instance, this post
appeared after bullies made fun of her appearance: “f..k your mom.
Who did this? dare to leave your real name? I am the target, I do feel
I’m beautiful, it's none of your business. How dare you ask me to knee
down? What do you think you are? Shit. Do you dare to come to me--your
mother!?” This sort of critical and confrontational language was
common when bullying victims confronted their attacker. It is
important to note, however, that bullying victims did not usually
respond when attacked in these forums. Thus, the language observed
here may not be a true reflection of the way in which all victims
respond to bullying (Hinduja & Patchin 2008).
In some instances, victims stated that
the messages posted about them were not true and demanded to be left
alone. For example, an individual who was called slutty and stupid by
a bully wrote:
“for those who say ill of me above,
why did you do that? You should know me well before talking about me.
I didn't do things like that as you've mentioned. Please testify the
fact before say ill of people. You don't have evidence to do that.
Nobody's gonna believe you!”
Similarly, a poster who was bullied by
another forum user requested: “I want to do everything quietly
right now. I hope those who are talking about me will stop doing
boring things like this. Don't talk about me or shit about me in
forum. Thank you.” This sort of controlled, subdued response was
infrequent, and largely ignored. Instead, bullying victims expressed a
great deal of outrage over being harassed or targeted by others when
they wanted to respond.
In some cases, other forum users stood
up against a bully on behalf of a prospective victim, expressing their
concern for the target. Specifically, when an individual felt that a
victim was being targeted unfairly or treated too harshly, they would
come to the victim’s defense. This was exemplified in the following
his [target's] elementary schoolmate, the only impression of him is
that he was a thief jerk. I feel so angry once this about him occurs
to me. somebody even feels that he is poor person. F..king poor. his
parents are deaf and dumb, how could he pretend to be great? he also
wastes his grandparent's money. What a f..king pretending. a trash
care of what you've talked about him. No matter how bad he is. You
cannot say ill of him like this! You might hurt his self-esteem. You
don't have any quality if you curse others like this. the only thing
you know is cursing others, you are insane. you are trash
from ***school. I have to say that that school produced this kind of
rubbish student. The target didn't do anything wrong to you. but you
we know you very well, never do the normal and on right track, always
goof around. shame on you, trash
In this example, the posters did not
tolerate the negative comments made by XWJ and felt they must respond
to assist the victim. It is important to
note, however, that individuals did not regularly defend targets.
Instead, the user population would primarily assist victims when they
felt others had unfairly treated the target of the post. For
example, a user posted a message about a girl in her school stating:
“Do you have sense of beauty? If she is
beautiful, there's no ugly person in the world. She is always
gossiping others at the back.” In
response, a user posted a message writing: “Even if you don’t think
she is good looking, you don’t have to say ill of her. Take care of
yourself first.” Additionally, an individual stated “who’s the
partner of homosexual KKY?” Multiple users jumped to the target’s
defense, with comments such as “Don’t talk like that they have true
love,” “it’s not easy, the way you talk about others might hurt them,”
care of yourself, don't intrude others' issues, or else you'll not
know how you are going to die.”
These comments illustrate that users are willing to defend others if
they feel that bullying incidents are unfair or are overly mean about
a prospective target.
Discussion and Conclusion
In light of the growing problem of
cyber bullying in various countries across the globe (Beran & Li,
2005, 2007; Erdur-Baker, 2010; Erdur-Baker & Kavsut, 2007; Hinduja &
Patchin, 2008, 2009; McLoughlin et al., 2009; Wolack et al., 2006),
this study attempted to examine the nature of this offense in a
transnational context. Using a sample of threads from a series of
Chinese middle and high school forums, this study explored the
prevalence of various forms of cyber bullying, and the nature of the
relationship between victims and bullies. The findings suggest that
the overwhelming majority of bullying incidents involved denigration,
outing, and flaming. Individuals regularly made comments about the
physical appearance, intelligence, or sexual activities of other
students. This may be due to the fact that these characteristics may
be easily mocked or exaggerated by others (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008,
2009). In addition, such comments may have a particularly deleterious
impact on their target’s psyche (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008, 2009;
This study also found that bullying
posts consistently involved disparaging, violent, and obscene
language. Many posters utilized graphic language to describe an
individual’s sexual activities or physical appearance, particularly
using the description of “slutty” or promiscuous to describe females.
Thus, the pervasive use of graphic and hurtful language identified in
this study is in keeping with previous research which finds that
bullying victims may be offended or experience emotional harm as a
consequence (Beran & Li, 2007; Hinduja & Patchin, 2008, 2009; Li,
2008; Ybarra, 2004). A limited number of posters also threatened to
engage in physical violence or conflict in the real world. Though it
is difficult to confirm that actual altercations resulted from these
posts, these findings support the relationship between bullying on and
off-line (Beran & Li, 2007; Erdur-Baker, 2010; Hinduja & Patchin,
2007, 2009; Li, 2008).
There were, however, no real instances
of persistent forms of bullying in this sample. No exclusionary
bullying was found, though the public nature of the forums sampled
make it difficult to restrict access to this form of communication
(Holt, 2010). The forums in this study were moderated, though there
was no evidence that moderators intervened on behalf of a poster in
instances of bullying or kept individuals from accessing the forums as
a whole. Thus, these forums appear to tacitly allow bullying between
forum participants. Additionally, there was no evidence of pervasive
or constant attacks against a single user, despite a substantial
sample of threads. There is no immediate explanation for the absence
of persistent harassment and stalking as per Willard’s (2004)
framework, though instances of masquerading and outing were found.
This might be due to students finding limited value in persistently
targeting someone in public if the prospective victim may fight back
or garner support from the larger population of forum users.
Alternatively, students may prefer to use email or instant messaging
chats to engage in persistent campaigns against a single target.
Further research is required to better understand the nature of
bullying and the use of other forms of computer-mediated communication
to engage in bullying.
Taken as a whole, this study indicates
that there is a significant range of bullying in school-related forums
in China (Li, 2008). Since the participants were engaged in
school-related forums, it is critical to consider if schools identify
or have any bullying-related policies. Nine of the 21 schools had a
policy document posted on-line detailing how students should behave on
campus. Only one school had a written policy stating that students
should not spread indecent information on Internet. This
document did not specifically refer to “bullying” behavior or specify
a specific on-line environment like a forum, but rather indicated that
this was an unacceptable behavior. It is important, however, to note
that there was generally little variation in the bullying behaviors
found in these forums. Additionally, no poster referenced their
school’s policies related to bullying on or off-line.
The absence of such policies calls to
question how school administrators and parents may diminish the risk
of bullying. Since Internet use plays an increasingly significant
role in student free time, encouraging the development of ethical use
courses that present students with guidelines for communicating with
others in various outlets may help to reduce bullying (Finkelhor et
al., 2000; 2005; Hinduja & Patchin, 2009; Marcum, 2008). Teaching
young people about the importance of the use of respectful language in
public spaces on-line, including blogs, message boards, and social
networking sites can emphasize the need for treating others with the
same respect on and off-line (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009; Marcum, 2008).
Additionally, such courses could demonstrate the impact that the use
of harsh language and disrespect can have on others’ emotional and
Further research should also consider
awareness and recognition of cyber bullying among samples of Chinese
parents. When youths experience cyber bullying, they may feel less
inclined to report these events to their parents or guardians and
begin to withdraw from peers and schoolwork (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009;
Marcum, 2008). Such incidents demand parental intervention, due to
the dramatic affect bullying can have on social and emotional
development, as well as academic achievement. In addition, parents
may not know that their children engage in bullying activities
depending on the way that they manage their children’s internet use.
It is critical that researchers begin to examine how well adults can
identify when bullying is taking place with or without acknowledgement
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Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Michigan State University, 7 Human Ecology Building, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States of America. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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