Masters Thesis

An exploratory study of cyberbullying among Native American students at Humboldt State University

This study explores the prevalence and the relationship of cyberbullying among Native American students at Humboldt State University. Cyberbullying defined in brief is the repetitive use of technology to harm an individual. Cyberbullying is a widely studied issue that has gained International media attention with the tragic deaths of several youths and students resulting from having been cyberbullied. A host of debatable issues have emerged from the International research involving cyberbullying including age-specificity of the term, applicability, overlapping, and competing legislation of non-cyber crimes with the expanding cyber-issues, problems associated with varied instruments and inconsistent operationalization and measurement of constructs, and as school budgets are increasingly restricted debate about how best to use funds in the crafting of bullying prevention policies for schools. Trends in cyberbullying research also emerging from the literature include age, gender, ethnicity and cultural effects on prevalence rates, types of forums and technologies used, and the affect and motivations of victims and perpetrators. The present study used a modified version of an 81 item instrument but whose current convenience sample included 272 University students, with an overrepresentation of Native American students (n=58) at 21% of the sample representing 23 US Federally recognized tribes, anonymously surveyed in the Spring and Fall of the 2013-2014 academic year. The exploratory study produced robust data including demographic distinctions for comparison of gender, ethnicity, and adherence to tribal traditions for Native American respondents. Also reported on are, the identity of the perpetrator -addressing the role of anonymity, the frequency of daily Internet and cell phone use, for cyberbullying victimization and perpetration the frequency of occurrence and type of forums used and the resulting affect of victimization and motivation of perpetration. The major research question centered on the potential effect adherence to tribal traditions had for Native American respondents on the rates of perpetration and victimization. Major results include significantly higher rates of cyberbullying victimization and perpetration for Native American respondents that adhered to their tribal traditions and values relating to bullying compared to respondents not Native American. Also statistically significant was the finding of relational aggression as the primary motivation for cyberbullying perpetration among Native American respondents adhering to their tribal traditions compared to respondents not Native American, and Native American respondents that reported not adhereing to their tribal traditions. Relational Aggression is defined here as aggressive behavior with the intent to attack relationships and was operationalized by two questions addressing weakness and exclusion of the victim. Conclusions include the validity in considering effects for gender, ethnicity, and culture on rates of cyberbullying perpetration and victimization when prevention policy is being created, and as response by future research to the current dearth addressing these potential effects in the literature. Cyberharassment is the intentional use of information and communication technologies to distress an individual, and it is occasionally used interchangeably in the literature with cyberbullying. Cyberharassment is distinguishable in some State legislation from cyberbullying in that the victim of technology-based harassment is often categorized as an adult, whereas in cyberbullying legislation the victim is often distinguished as children and adolescence. Cyberstalking is generally used to describe computer-mediated acts or communications deemed as being associated with either an implied or a credible threat of violence to an undistinguished aged victim.