Abstract

During the last decade, cyberbullying has become an increasing concern which has been addressed by diverse theoretical and methodological approaches. As a result there is a debate about its nature and rigorously validated assessment instruments have not yet been validated. In this context, in the present study an instrument composed of 22 items representing the different types of behaviours and actions that define cyberbullying has been structurally validated and its cross-cultural robustness has been calculated for the two main dimensions: cyber-victimization and cyber-aggression. To this end, 5679 secondary school students from six European countries (Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, United Kingdom, and Greece) were surveyed through this self-report questionnaire which was designed based on previously existing instruments and the most relevant conceptual elements. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were conducted and the global internal consistency was computed for the instrument and its two dimensions. Identical factor structures were found across all of the six subsamples. The results contribute to existing research by providing an instrument, the European Cyberbullying Intervention Project Questionnaire, which has been structurally validated in a wide sample from six different countries and that is useful to evaluate psycho-educative interventions against cyberbullying.

۱٫ Introduction

In recent years, society has shown a growing interest in the phenomenon named cyberbullying frequently appearing in the online social relationships among youngsters and adolescents (Fenaughty & Harré, ۲۰۱۳). Nowadays, we are immersed in the process of elaborating a solid theoretical approximation and an agreed definition of the phenomenon (Berne et al., 2013; Tokunaga, 2010). Thus, one of the main guides to follow is the research developed around traditional bullying (Olweus, 2013) as cyberbullying is defined as bullying developed through electronic media (Vivolo-Kantor, Martell, Holland, & Westby, 2014). Traditional bullying has been defined as physical, verbal, social and/or psychological aggression by a pupil against another, whom is chosen to be a victim of repeated attacks (Olweus, 1993, 1999). Such a negative and intentioned action puts the victim in a situation that is difficult to get out of. Bullying is neither an isolated aggression nor a simple individual behaviour but an interactive phenomenon in which several subjects are involved in at least three roles: bully, victim and bully-victim. Its distinctive characteristics are: the intentionality to hurt someone else, the imbalance of power between the aggressor and the victim and the repetition of the aggressive conducts by the aggressors over their victims. Such scientific evidences have clarified the nature of the bullying phenomenon and determined its standardization, hence, the appearance of instruments to measure it (Greif & Furlong, 2006).However, the nature of the electronic means that characterizes cyberbullying has made it necessary to investigate not only its conceptualization but also in order to provide instruments suitable to its nature with the aim of showing the levels of prevalence among adolescent population (Vivolo-Kantor et al., 2014).

۲٫ Cyberbullying: Definition and characteristics

Behaviours such as verbal attacks through digital devices, publication and exhibition of embarrassing pictures, and the exclusion from online communication are some examples of how traditional bullying brings to life cyberbullying. Other behaviours such as virtual identity theft (i.e. to impersonate someone else or to hack personal accounts with the aim of obtaining personal information) are not included in traditional forms of bullying but are considered as cyberbullying (Perren et al., 2012). Instead, virtual behaviours accompanied by certain nuances such as the presence of adults take advantage of minors, or the intentionality of sexual nature to obtain embarrassing pictures (Smith, Thompson, & Davidson, 2014), are linked to other phenomena different from cyberbullying such as grooming or sexting (Den Hamer & Konijn, 2015). Cyberbullying, by mainly referring to traditional bullying researches (Slonje & Smith, 2008), is defined as a clearly intentional aggression or hostile or harmful act carried out through an electronic device repeatedly over time by setting up an imbalance of powers between the aggressor and the victim (Tokunaga, 2010). Accordingly, both the aggressor and the victim are, a priori, substantial characters of the phenomenon, but there are also those that are aggressors and victims at the same time, the bully-victims (Yang & Salmivalli, 2013). In addition, there are researches that identifies cyberbullying exclusively with cyber-aggression (Calvete, Orue, Estévez, Villardón, & Padilla, 2010) or with cybervictimization (Müller, Pfetsch, & Ittel, 2014), leaving out the dynamic existing between the roles and how the criteria of intentionality, repetition and imbalance of powers takes place between them (Olweus, 2013). Criteria that otherwise are not as evident in cyberbullying as they are in traditional bullying (Dehue, 2013; Slonje, Smith, & Frisén, 2013; Smith, Del Barrio, & Tokunaga, 2013). In this respect, some authors suggest that a single image or any other humiliating audio-visual material can be comparable to the repetition of traditional bullying, since the content can be perpetual on the Internet and is available for any person seeking access to it, or may even be downloaded and stored on personal devices (Heirman & Walrave, 2008), this suggests that digital aggression is equally harmful. Concerning the imbalance of power, high levels of technological knowledge and the difficulties that the victims may have in identifying the aggressors, can be interpreted as inferiority before the aggressor (Menesini & Nocentini, 2009; Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2008). Despite these considerations, from our point of view, repetition shall be considered as a requirement for cyberbullying as for the victim or even for both the aggressor and the victim the experience is a repeated behaviour. In fact, certain existing qualitative studies have shown the need to maintain such a criterion (Nocentini et al., 2010). With regard to the imbalance of power, there is no doubt of its relevance in the dynamic of the phenomenon as the lack of competence for keeping personal data secure in digital scenarios imply or may imply that the victim faces inferiority with respect to the aggressor when communicating through digital devices (Vandebosch & Van Cleemput, 2008).

 

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