Perception of cyberbullying among students: the study of a developing country

Published date31 August 2022
Date31 August 2022
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression,conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology,policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
AuthorAndrew Tetteh,Fred Awaah,Dorcas Addo
Perception of cyberbullying among
students: the study of a developing
Andrew Tetteh, Fred Awaah and Dorcas Addo
Purpose This study aims to investigate students’ perceptions regarding the causes and effects of
cyberbullying among university students. The study also establishes whether or not there would be
statistically significant differences among cyberbullying victims, perpetrators, victim-perpetrators and
bystanders in their thoughts on thecauses and effects of cyberbullying on students’ social lives from a
developingcountry perspective.
Design/methodology/approach This study uses quantitative approach and cro ss-sectional
survey design to collect primary data from 1,374 undergraduate students sampled from selected
public universities in Ghana. Descriptive statistics and analysis of variance analyses were carried
out using statistical package for the social sciences.
Findings The study reportspopularity among friends, extortion,retaliation, stress, trauma and low self-
esteem as causes of cyberbullying. Also, cyberbullying resulted in difficulty trusting people, low self-
esteem and increased stress. The study also found statistically significant differences among
cyberbullying victims,perpetrators, victim-perpetrators and bystandersin their thoughts on the causes
and effectsof cyberbullying on students’ social lives.
Practical implications The study’s findings imply that cyberbullying has some fairly significant
negative effects on students’ lives in Ghana and must be taken more seriously. Conditions must be
created to ensure that perpetrators and victims are given the support needed to curb this menace.
Detailedremediating measures are providedin the study.
Originality/value This paper contributes to the existing literature by studying cyberbullying
perceptionsamong students from a relatively bully-tolerantculture.
Keywords Cyberbullying, Online, Students’ perception, Ghana, Higher education,
Developing economies, Cyberbullying causes, Cyberbullying classifications,Cyberbullying effects
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Over the past years, many partsof the world have identified cyberbullying as a menaceand
an insidious threat to the psychological well-being of all involved. This assertion is
evidenced by the increased research into the causes of this menace and its effect on the
perpetrator and the victim under various circumstances and jurisdictions (Olweus, 2012;
Nixon, 2014;Tian et al.,2018). Olweus (2012) defines cyberbullying as bullying via
electronic means such as mobile/cell phones or the internet. Carter et al. (2020) report that
parent-child attachment mediated the associations between parental firm control and two
types of bullying experiences: physical and verbal bullying. Padmanabhanunni and
Gerhardt (2018) also found that aggression reduction interventions for children from
disadvantaged areas need to consider the role of gender and family-related factors. The
works of Carter et al. (2020) and Padmanabhanunni and Gerhardt (2018) are precursors
that bullying and its cyber-related forms need remediating attention. It is also worth stating
Andrew Tetteh, Fred Awaah
and Dorcas Addo all are
based at the Department of
Business Administration,
University of Professional
Studies, Accra, Ghana.
Received 21 June 2022
Revised 19 July 2022
Accepted 8 August 2022
The authors would want to
appreciate the special
assistance of Mr Solomon
Yeboah, Mr Emmanuel Ekwam,
Ms Emmanuella Heloo and Mr
Jessie Foli for their insightful
Funding: The authors received
no funding.
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-06-2022-0726 VOL. 15 NO. 2 2023, pp. 163-180, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 jJOURNAL OF AGGRESSION, CONFLICT ANDPEACE RESEARCH jPAGE 163
that students are not immune to the causes and effects of this phenomenon (Sam et al.,
Research shows that most students have either been victimised or have bullied another
student (Matos et al.,2018). Studies have found that most of these victims resort to
cyberbullying others as a copingmechanism and an escape from the constant bullying they
endured over the internet (Matos et al.,2018). Texting and social media have also been the
main avenues through which cyberbullying is perpetrated (Whittaker and Kowalski, 2015).
Studies have also been conducted into various classifications of involvement in
cyberbullying, how they differ from one another and the implications for further research
(Schultze-Krumbholz et al.,2015;Kowalski and Limber, 2013). These classifications
underpin this study.
Within university settings, cyberbullying may pose some hidden academic crimes. For
instance, “popular” students may threaten weaker ones if their assignments, quizzes and
examinations are not written. These may worsen academic corruption in the African higher
education literature (Awaah, 2019;Awaah and Abdulai, 2020). This assertion is particularly
disturbing given the recent evidence of students’ difficulty (Awaah et al., 2020;Awaah,
2020;Awaah et al., 2021a,2021b). It is also imperative that cyberbullying is reduced as
online resources have been documented to improve academic motivation and
engagement, among other benefits, especially during the pandemic when most classes
were conducted online (Stanciu et al.,2012;Fonseca and Garcı
˜alvo, 2019;Garcı
˜alvo et al.,2020
Although research on cyberbullying is important, studies within the Ghanaian higher
education space seem limited to traditional bullying, with few studies conducted on
cyberbullying (Sam et al.,2019). This is further problematised by the scant literature on
cyberbullying, its causes and effects from the lived experiences of university students in
Ghana. These observations require investigations from the Ghanaian perspective to identify
the causes and perceived effects of cyberbullying on students’ social lives in tertiary
institutions in Ghana using the classifications provided by Kowalski and Limber (2013).
According to Sam et al. (2019), most Ghanaians do not view bullying as a social peril, but
as a means to toughen adolescents for the realities of life. Ghanaian adults recall the
bullying experiences in high school and usually laugh over them. This same apathetic
attitude is shown towards issues of cyberbullying, possibly causing the relatively scarce
literature on the subject. However, considering findings in other jurisdictions (Nixon, 2014;
Tian et al.,2018), there is the possibility that the effects recorded in other parts of the world
apply to our environment, creating the need for research into the causes, effects and
growing risk of cyberbullyingand remediating measures.
To achieve the study’s aim, we seek to answer the followingquestions:
Q1. What are students’ perceptions regarding the causes of cyberbullying among
university studentsin Ghana?
Q2. What are students’ perceptions regarding the effects of cyberbullying on the social
lives of universitystudents in Ghana?
Q3. Will there be a statistically significant difference among cyberbullying victims,
perpetrators, victim-perpetrators and bystanders in their thoughts on the causes of
Q4. Will there be a statistically significant difference among cyberbullying victims,
perpetrators, victim-perpetrators and bystanders in their thoughts on the effects of
cyberbullyingon students’ social lives?
These questions are addressed using quantitative research method, where cross-sectional
survey data were obtained and analysed using descriptive statistics and analysis of
variance (ANOVA) techniques in statisticalpackage for the social sciences (SPSS).

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