Safe to Surf? Cyberbullying, Online Risks and Parental Mediation: A Comparison Between Adolescent Reports and Parent Perceptions in the United Kingdom and South Africa

Popovac, Maša (2016) Safe to Surf? Cyberbullying, Online Risks and Parental Mediation: A Comparison Between Adolescent Reports and Parent Perceptions in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Doctoral thesis, University of Buckingham.

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Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have altered our social environments and young people in particular have immersed themselves in the digital age. Despite countless benefits, younger ICT users are also being exposed to various online risks including contact with strangers, harmful content, sending or receiving sexual images or comments (i.e. ‘sexting’), cyberaggression and cyberbullying. Parents are often unaware of the online spaces their children inhabit and struggle to implement effective mediation strategies. The study explored (i) online risks (contact, content and conduct risks), (ii) cyberaggression and cyberbullying, and (iii) parental mediation among adolescents (aged 12-18 years) and parents in the United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa (SA), representing a developed and developing country context respectively. The study was a mixed methods design and included initial focus group interviews with adolescents, parents and teachers to inform the subsequent quantitative data collection, which consisted of a cross-sectional survey design with a total of 1350 adolescent and parent participants. A follow-up longitudinal survey was conducted with a subset of the adolescent participants to assess their online behaviours and experiences one year later. Key analyses included comparisons between adolescents in the two countries, adolescent gender and age trends, as well as comparing adolescent reports of their online behaviours and parent perceptions of those behaviours. Findings revealed that adolescents in SA were not unlike their counterparts in a more developed context in relation to access and use of ICTs and, while online risk behaviours were high in both countries, SA adolescents engaged in more online risks than UK adolescents. For example, adolescents in SA were twice as likely to engage in sexting behaviours and, while they were equally likely to talk to and meet online strangers in person as UK adolescents, they were more likely to have established romantic relationships with individuals met online. There was no difference in content risk exposure, which was exceptionally high in both contexts compared to previous research. Online risk behaviours increased with age of adolescents. Most adolescents experienced at least one form of cyberaggression, but UK adolescents were more likely to report that they had ever been cyberbullied (43%) compared to SA adolescents (34%). No difference was found at follow-up, where one in four adolescents in both countries experienced cyberbullying in the past year. Females in SA experienced more cyberaggression and cyberbullying than males, but no gender differences were found in the UK. Online victimisation and perpetration were linked and many adolescents reported witnessing cyberbullying often while online. Experiences were associated with serious emotional effects. Higher parental mediation was reported by females and younger adolescents. Parents were found to consistently underestimate online risk behaviours as well as online victimisation and perpetration experienced by their children. They also overestimated mediation strategies in the home. The study highlights the generational gap between adolescents and parents in terms of knowledge and use of ICTs and discusses the implications of this and the importance of including parents in online safety efforts. School mediation was higher in the UK and adolescents were twice as likely to have had online safety discussions or workshops at school in the past year compared to adolescents in SA. Moreover, key law and policy differences, particularly in relation to implementation, monitoring and accountability of policies, indicate different priorities placed on the issue between the two countries. The study also found a link between cyberbullying and traditional forms of bullying, arguing that cyberbullying should form part of broader anti-bullying and school safety strategies given the potentially serious psychological, emotional and behavioural effects, as well as its impact on the school climate. The issue of online safety should be given higher priority and approaches need to be strengthened in both countries, but especially in SA. The study highlights the importance of a holistic approach towards online safety, including government policy and campaigns, strengthening external support services through law enforcement and various organisations, school policy and support, parental education and involvement, as well as adolescents themselves.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cyberbullying
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Psychology and Wellbeing
Depositing User: Masa Popovac
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2018 11:47
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2018 11:47

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