DIFFERENT SIDES OF THE SAME STORY? Cyberbullying and the positive uses of social networking: Examining perspectives from culturally diverse youth

Sarah Hayton

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Technology is an integral component of Australian youths’ daily life and learning experiences. As social networking sites (SNSs) increase in popularity, they provide both opportunities and challenges for youth, in particular, cyberbullying. While existing literature on cyberbullying provides evidence generally about Australian youth, little is known about how Australian youth from culturally diverse backgrounds experience the phenomenon of cyberbullying when using SNSs. This research investigated how culturally diverse Australian young people make sense of their lived experiences of cyberbullying when using SNSs, with a specific focus on how they define and respond to cyberbullying.
    A social constructivist Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach underpinned the research. Young people were recruited using purposive sampling.
    This resulted in three groups of participants from both urban, Victoria and regional New South Wales, Australia respectively. The groups were: Anglo-Saxon, Aboriginal, and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) youth. All participants were active users of SNSs and had lived experience of cyberbullying on SNSs. The data collection methods used were in-depth, semi structured interviews and digital diaries to explore the meanings participants attach to both their positive and negative experiences of using SNSs.
    Used responsibly, SNSs were found to have many beneficial effects. These include supporting young people’s social development, well-being and enhancing their education and social cohesion by connecting them to peers with similar interests at home and across the globe. Negative experiences such as cyberbullying, were found to be embedded in youth culture and a prevalent part of their SNS experiences. A critical insight for the cyberbullying debate was the finding that youth do not uniformly view cyberbullying as a single monolithic phenomenon, thus making it difficult to find an all- inclusive definition. Indeed, youth from diverse social and cultural backgrounds experienced cyberbullying differently. Adding complexity, the conceptualisation of context was found to be critical to understanding cyberbullying in youths’ lives.
    Parents and teachers have an important role to play. However, in order to do this effectively, an understanding of both the positive and negative ways youth engage with SNSs is required. Importantly, this study reveals that by recognising young people as experts of their own lived SNS experiences, adults may better understand youth SNS practices and be provided opportunities to foster intergenerational intersubjective meaning-making of cyberbullying.
    If education and policy institutions are to affect behavioural change in order to reduce cyberbullying, this study suggests the inclusion of youth voice is inadequate and is vulnerable to being tokenistic. Rather, youth agency is required and needs to be viewed by schools and policy makers as an interrelated set of processes that include ownership, voice and leadership in equal measures to ensure future anti-cyberbullying programs, not only address the phenomenon of cyberbullying more accurately, as experienced by youth, but also celebrate and leverage the many benefits afforded by SNSs. This research can be used to redirect current approaches to consider an integrated model of delivery that combines cybersafety education in both school and the social settings where young people engage, such as SNSs.
    The complex environment surrounding interpersonal conflict on SNSs which this study shines a light on, directly contributes to understanding the ways Australian youth make sense of their personal and social cyber-configured world and provides critical insights for future cyberbullying policy and programs. This study offers a broader approach to the experiences surrounding cyberbullying through the inclusion of youth perspectives using an IPA approach, whilst importantly remaining open to novel findings.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Education
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Edwards-Groves, Chris, Principal Supervisor
    • Langat, Kiprono, Co-Supervisor
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 08 Nov 2020


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