n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - Bullying among secondary school learners in South Africa with specific emphasis on cyber bullying

Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



This article explores the prevalence of cyber bullying as a relatively new phenomenon impacting on the lives of many secondary school learners in South Africa. More specifically, the article investigates the nature and extent of cyber bullying and the emotional impact experienced by the victims of cyber bullies. The research conducted among a representative sample of 13-to-18-year-old secondary school learners in Gauteng and the Western Cape reveals that male learners (especially 15-16-year-olds) are more prone to physical bullying while female learners are more susceptible to emotional (especially 15-16-year-olds) and cyber bullying (especially 17-18-year-olds). In general, the study reveals statistically significant gender and age differences between traditional and cyber bullying victimisation. In this regard, younger males (age 13-14 years) tend to be easier victims of traditional bullies while relatively older females (15+ years) tend to be easier victims of cyber bullies. However, when analysing cyber bullying in isolation, the study reveals that neither gender nor age of secondary school leaners are significant predictors of cyber bullying victimisation. This finding suggests that cyber bullies have no signifiant gender or age preferences regarding victims. Upsetting messages, rumours and gossip (mostly female learners) and name calling (mostly male learners) are the most common types of cyber bullying experienced by learners. Regarding the most common type of cyber bullying and communication device used by cyber bullies, the study reveals that upsetting and threatening messages are mostly received by learners via SMS messaging. Whereas nine in every 10 learners receive upsetting messages, one in every five female learners experience name calling via cellular phones on a daily basis. The study also discloses that sadness, depression and degradation are the most common emotional effects experienced by victims of cyber bullying. In order to cope with the negative consequences of cyber bullying, secondary school learners are deliberately developing coping mechanism such as avoiding chatrooms and mobile social networks. Overall, the study shows substantial resemblance to comparable international studies; contributes to basic and exploratory knowledge regarding the nature, extent and impact of cyber bullying in South Africa; and recommends remedial strategies to assist learners to cope with the negative consequences of cyber bullying.

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