Cyberbullying? Voices of college students

Angela Baldasare, Sheri Bauman, Lori Goldman, Alexandra Robie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

49 Scopus citations


In order to gain a rich understanding of the phenomenon of cyberbullying among college students, we conducted a series of focus groups on the campus of a large southwestern university. Employing a grounded theory approach to the data analysis, major themes emerged. The roles of sender, receiver, and audience member are very fluid in the cyber-environment. Misinterpretation and miscommunication can result in unintentional cyberbullying; audience comments can easily escalate a benign comment into a major incident. Focus group participants generally believed that the receiver's interpretation rather than the intent of the sender determines whether a communication constitutes cyberbullying. Because of the potential for misinterpretation of messages, anyone can be a (perhaps unintentional) cyberbully. Participants believed that the anonymity of the Internet encouraged cyberbullying, as did the desire for instant gratification and impulsivity. Students who are different in some way (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and appearance) are perceived as being more vulnerable to being victimized in cyberspace, and students with high profiles (e.g., athletes and student government officers) were also noted as likely targets. Despite being able to describe the dynamics of cyberbullying in detail and provide numerous examples of it happening in the campus community, members of the focus groups were reluctant to characterize cyberbullying as a problem at their university and uncertain whether the university should intervene. They did, however, offer many suggestions that will be useful to universities seeking to develop policies, educational programs, and intervention strategies for their campuses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMisbehavior Online in Higher Education
EditorsLaura Wankel, Charles Wankel
Number of pages29
StatePublished - 2012

Publication series

NameCutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education
ISSN (Print)2044-9968
ISSN (Electronic)2044-9976

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Communication


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