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The Experience of Cyber Bullying by Female Victims in Buea: The Case of the Students of the University of Buea

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Any type of bullying can have physical and psychological effects on a child. Anxiety, fear, depression, low self-esteem, behavioral issues, and academic struggles are just of the few challenges kids may experience if they are targets. Cyber bullying, however, may be particularly damaging. There are several possible reasons for this. For example, unlike traditional bullying—which is often limited to school and known bullies—cyber bullying can occur at any time, day or night, and be perpetrated by anonymous sources. This makes it more relentless and, often, more cruel. Even the type of victimization may impact the severity of its consequences (Nixen, 2014). For instance, one study found that online pictures and posts were more damaging than harassment received through text messaging or phone calls. While cyber bullying can happen in a public digital space, like on social media post, it can also take the form of private messages—leaving some kids managing this secret, and its effect on them, alone.

Cyber bullying is a problem that affects everyone in the society, but most especially students and schools. As more children and adolescents have contact with devices, the likelihood of cyber bullying has become more prevalent. Cyber bullying affects the learning of children within class, as the students become self-conscious or distracted. University students of Cameroon, who happen to be the greatest in terms of number, consumers of cyber services are inevitably the most exposed group to cyber bullying (Yalle, 2009). It is regrettable to know that this is happening at a time when students are required to embrace and acquaint themselves with the advancement in technology and digitalization. Cyber bullying therefore poses a serious security threat to the valorization of technology.

While research to date has illuminated a great deal about the nature and consequences of cyberbullying, several areas require further examination. This study is therefore undertaken to investigate the negative consequences of cyber bullying on university students. This study is presented in five chapters. Chapter one presents a general introduction to the study, with attention on the background to the study, the research problem, the research questions, objectives and scope of the study, the significance of the study and the delimitations, the limitations of the study as well as the definition of key terms. Chapter two reviews related literature to the study, chapter three presents the methodology, chapter four presents the findings and chapter five presents the discussion, conclusion and recommendations.

  • Background to the Study

The term cyber bullying characterizes the use of digital technologies in oder to intentionally create discomfort in other users (Gedik, Henci-Kursun and Cagiltay, 2012). Suitable devices associated with cyber bullying include: digital media players, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), mobile (cell) phones, laptops, smartphones and iPods (Taxler, 2005). The history of cyber bullying dates back to the 1970s when the notiions and expansions in cyber space were made. This era was equally characterized by a rise in mobile phone usage. While working with Palo Altor at Xerox Corporation Research Centre, Alan Kay formed a group to develop “Dynabook” which is a portable and hands on computer, with the aim of giving children access to the digital world. However, this project did not stand the test of time due to lack of technical support, but it set the pace for the development of mobile learning technologies.

In 1975, IBM5000 became the first portable computer available, setting the groundwork for mobile learning.  In 1985, micro writers were available in some in some infant schools in the U.K. As early as 1990, technology for learning had already developed from computer based to mobile phone based. Until 1994, the first smartphone, IBN Simon was created by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. It was defined as a handheld personal communicator. From then on technology companies started to design the so called “smartphones”. This provided the platform for mobile learning. The current of mobile device innovation pushed mobile learning from a concept status to a research and project status. In January 1994 John Gardner, Hugh Morrison, Ruth Jarma et al published a study in computer and education, showing the possibility of using computers for learning purposes (Ganner, 2010).

In 1996, Palm released PalmOS which gave access to learning and organization software on handset devices. In December 1997, mobile computers were used to enhance field work in the northern estates of the U.K. On October 2000, SRI international, a nonprofit research and development organization in the U.K, invited teachers and students to apply for the Palm Education Pioneer (PEP) grants. The grant provided teachers and students with palm computers and evaluated innovative uses of palm held computers. With these researches and innovations, in 2001, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) were used in classrooms in Chile. That same year (2001), the European Education Commission Funds launched the mobile learning project to further explore mobile education (Vans, 2019).

Chronologically, mobile learning research and project development has been characterized by three phases: focus on the devices, focus on learning outside the classroom and focus on the mobility of the learners. By 2005, many projects had been done, including projects that targeted the effects of mobile learning like motivation of the learner, engagement in the learning activity and focus on the special needs of people. These projects gradually shifted mobile learning from a mere research and project status to a mainstream education and training activity.

Through a series of research and innovations, handheld and mobile phones became vital in the educational systems worldwide. As mentioned by Balt (2018), in September 2008, the first apps for mobile learning for iOS and android were launched. Later in 2009, there were free mobile learning books. As innovations were being made on mobile learning devices, so too were there innovations on internet accessibility. These innovations brought about the movement from the 2G features of smartphones to the 3G features in 2003. This change brought about increase in internet accessibility. There also came email services on mobile phones with the advent of BlackBerry devices like 8100Pearl.

By 2015, smartphones became increasingly central to modern life and learning as they were used in teachers’ lesson preparations and delivery, students’ assignments in many schools throughout the world. There came also the launching of the 4G service in 11 cities in the U.K., which increased downloading speed to about 12mbps. Voice recognition, video streaming, video calling capacities became realities. With these features, students were able to gain access to the internet where they could download their videos of lectures of their interest, carry out researches, record lectures (Harlet, 2017).

Today, technology has advanced so much as to support the use of mobile phones in many fields of life. These technologies are available as both devices and programs or apps. In terms of the devices, there are button input phones, smartphones, tablets, and iPods. In terms of the programs, there exist; Short Message Services (SMS), Multimedia Message Services (MMS), Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), MP3s, GPRs, and Bluetooth.

In Cameroon, just like the rest of Sub Saharan African countries, digital users are exposed to many services on the cyber space. The number of platforms available is unlimited and. In the past few years, there has been an explosion in research on cyberbullying, documenting it as a serious, prevalent, and growing problem. Prevalence rates for cyberbullying vary due to definitional inconsistencies, the population studied, and the time frames and methodologies used (Beri, 2018). It has been established, however, that between 10-40% of youth report being cyberbullied, while 50% know someone who has experienced cyberbullying [15

Recently, two sources of collected data on youth bullying indicate that:

  • The 2019 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) indicates that, nationwide, about 16 percent of students in grades 9–12 experienced cyberbullying.
  • The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates that an estimated 15.7% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Conceptually, cyberbullying is when someone uses technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. It happens on devices like smartphones, computers, tablets, and gaming systems. Cyberbullying hurts people, and in some cases is against the law. Sometimes cyberbullying can be easy to spot — for example, if your child shows you a text, comment, or post that is harsh, mean, or cruel. Other acts are less obvious, like posting someone’s personal information, or using photos or videos that hurt or embarrass another person. Someone might make a fake account or screen name to harass and bully, so you don’t know who the bully is (Teri, 2016).

For many, according to Haris (2016), cyberbullying affects their everyday lives and is a constant source of distress and worry. With technology being so freely available it is an ongoing issue and one that is relentless. Not only does it go on after school, college or work has finished, but it then carries through into the next day and the cycle continues. It has been well documented that cyber bullying has resulted in tragic events including suicide, and self-harm and clearly, more needs to be done in order to protect vulnerable children and adults from online bullying. Bullying is generally defined as a form of aggression that can be direct or indirect, and includes hostile physical, verbal, psychological, or relational behaviors (Abdul, 2019). Bullying is characteristically intentional, commonly occurring in the context of a relationship, and comprising a power imbalance among those involved. The aggressive behavior is typically repeated over time, resulting in harm or negative consequences for the victimized child or youth (Uriel, 2019). Although consensus on the definition of cyberbullying has been difficult to establish, it may be generally defined as the use of ICTs to bully another person (Mark, 2016). Young people may be involved in cyberbullying as victim, perpetrator, and/or witness. These roles appear to be more fluid and difficult to distinguish in the case of cyberbullying compared to traditional offline bullying (Janet, 2019). Occurrence of bullying and cyberbullying are also highly correlated. Research suggests that regardless of the role played in cyberbullying incidents, all children and youth can experience serious negative social, mental health, and health consequences as a result of involvement.

Cyberbullying constitutes a mounting public health problem, as both victimized youth and perpetrators may experience significant and prolonged distress (Ellian, 2017) as well as an array of mental health concerns and problem behaviors. Victimized children and youth are at risk of developing depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, eating disorders, sleep difficulties, emotional problems (eg, fear, sadness, loneliness), psychosomatic problems (eg, abdominal pains, headaches), and suicidal ideation and behavior. Victimized youth may also be at increased risk of using substances, experiencing difficulties in school, participating in delinquent behavior, and engaging in unsafe sexual practices. Youth who are perpetrators similarly experience increased risk of problems including depressive symptoms, substance use, aggression, and suicidal ideation, and may demonstrate less empathy and more conduct problems. According to Germi (2016), students who are marginalized due to particular social markers (such as race/ethnicity, gender, religion, appearance, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or disability) may be disproportionately vulnerable to experiencing cyberbullying and associated negative social, mental health, and health consequences

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior. As stated by Naman (2021), the most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
  • Email
  • Online gaming communities

With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it (Jack, 2019). Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:

Persistent – Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.

Permanent – Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.

Hard to Notice – Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.

Cyberbullying or cyberharassment is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic means. Cyberbullying and cyberharassment are also known as online bullying. It has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers, as the digital sphere has expanded and technology has advanced (Asana, 2017). Cyberbullying is when someone, typically a teenager, bullies or harasses others on the internet and other digital spaces, particularly on social media sites. Harmful bullying behavior can include posting rumors, threats, sexual remarks, a victims’ personal information, or pejorative labels (i.e. hate speech. Bullying or harassment can be identified by repeated behavior and an intent to harm. Victims of cyberbullying may experience lower self-esteem, increased suicidal ideation, and various negative emotional responses, including being scared, frustrated, angry, or depressed

Cyberbullying is in many cases an extension of already existing traditional bullying (Eric, 2019). Students who are bullied via the Internet have, in most cases, also been bullied in other more traditional ways before (e.g., physically or verbally). There are few students who are bullied exclusively over the Internet; these cyber victims are often physically stronger students, which cause bullies to prefer online confrontations over face-to-face contact at school. According to Freddy (2011), awareness in the United States has risen in the 2010s, due in part to high-profile cases. Several US states and other countries have passed laws to combat cyberbullying. Some are designed to specifically target teen cyberbullying, while others extend from the scope of physical harassment. In cases of adult cyberharassment, these reports are usually filed beginning with local police. The laws differ by area or state.

Research has demonstrated a number of serious consequences of cyberbullying victimisation. Specific statistics on the negative effects of cyberbullying differ by country and other demographics. Some researchers point out there could be some way to use modern computer techniques to determine and stopping cyberbullying (Benard, 2019). Internet trolling is a common form of bullying that takes place in an online community (such as online gaming or social media) in order to elicit a reaction or disruption, or simply just for someone’s own personal amusement. Cyberstalking is another form of bullying or harassment that uses electronic communications to stalk a victim; this may pose a credible threat to the victim. Manuals intended to educate the public about cyberbullying summarize that cyberbullying is inclusive of acts of intended cruelty to others in the form of posting or sending material using an internet capable device. Research, legislation and education in the field are ongoing. Research has identified basic definitions and guidelines to help recognize and cope with what is regarded as abuse of electronic communications (Wank, 2018)

Cyberbullying involves repeated behavior with intent to harm. Cyberbullying is perpetrated through harassment, cyberstalking, denigration (sending or posting cruel rumors and falsehoods to damage reputation and friendships), impersonation, and exclusion (intentionally and cruelly excluding someone from an online group). Ngane (2018) insists that cyberbullying can be as simple as continuing to send emails or text messages harassing someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender. It may also include public actions such as repeated threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e. hate speech) or defamatory false accusations, ganging up on a victim by making the person the subject of ridicule in online forums, hacking into or vandalizing sites about a person, and posting false statements as fact aimed a discrediting or humiliating a targeted person. As mentioned by Green (2020), cyberbullying could be limited to posting rumors about a person on the internet with the intention of bringing about hatred in others’ minds or convincing others to dislike or participate in online denigration of a target. It may go to the extent of personally identifying victims of crime and publishing materials defaming or humiliating them.

Cyberbullies may disclose victims’ personal data (e.g. real name, home address, or workplace/schools) on websites or forums—called doxing, or may use impersonation, creating fake accounts, comments or sites posing as their target for the purpose of publishing material in their name that defames, discredits or ridicules them (Rene, 2020) This can leave the cyberbully anonymous, which can make it difficult for them to be caught or punished for their behavior, although not all cyberbullies maintain their anonymity. Users of semi-anonymous chat websites are at high risk for cyberbullying, as it is also easy in this outlet for a cyberbully to remain anonymous. Text or instant messages and emails between friends can also constitute cyberbullying if what is said is hurtful.

The recent rise of smartphones and mobile apps has yielded a more accessible form of cyberbullying. It is expected that cyberbullying via these platforms will occur more often than through more stationary internet platforms because of constant access to the internet. In addition, the combination of cameras and Internet access and the instant availability of these modern smartphone technologies yield specific types of cyberbullying not found in other platforms. It is likely that those cyberbullied via mobile devices will experience a wider range of cyberbullying methods than those who are exclusively bullied elsewhere (Omah, 2018). Some teens argue that some events categorized as cyberbullying are simply drama. Danah Boyd writes, “teens regularly used that word [drama] to describe various forms of interpersonal conflict that ranged from insignificant joking around to serious jealousy-driven relational aggression. Whereas adults might have labeled many of these practices as bullying, teens saw

Cyberbullying can take place on social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. “By 2008, 93% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 were online. In fact, youth spend more time with media than any single other activity besides sleeping” (Sandra, 2015). The last decade has witnessed a surge of cyberbullying, which is categorized as bullying that occurs through the use of electronic communication technologies, such as e-mail, instant messaging, social media, online gaming, or through digital messages or images sent to a cellular phone. There are many risks attached to social media sites, and cyberbullying is one of the larger risks. As stated by (Chike, 2014), one million children were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook during the past year, while 90 percent of social-media-using teens who have witnessed online cruelty say they have ignored mean behavior on social media, and 35 percent have done so frequently. Ninety-five percent of social-media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behavior on social networking sites say they have seen others ignoring the mean behavior, and 55 percent have witnessed this frequently. Terms like “Facebook depression” have been coined specifically in regard to the result of extended social media use, with cyberbullying playing a large part in this.

Cyberbullying has become more common nowadays because of all the technology that children have access to. The most common apps that teenagers use to cyberbully are Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat (Nain, 2020). Cyberbullying has become harder to stop because parents and teachers are unaware of when and where it is happening. Teens will say awful things to one another online and what they do not realize is that once it is said and published online it will not go away. Home used to be a safe place for teens, but now a child is still within reach of becoming a victim of cyberbullying.- whether it is through YouTube,, or a text message. Wherever you face, it is easy to come across Cyberbullying making it almost impossible to escape.

  • Statement of the Problem

The coming of the internet has been received by many with overwhelming joy. This is due to the fact that the internet has helped to ease the availability and circulation of information. Various sectors of life, if not all, are benefiting heavily on internet and cyber availability. Unfortunately, the cyber has been used by some people as a means to bully others. Students, especially university students are constantly being exposed to various forms and categories of cyber maltreatment. These maltreatments that come as a result of their quest for information in academic related aspects of their lives or other social concerns has resulted in drastic damages. These damages are emotional, cognitive and physical. Students in the universities have resorted to various forms of immoralities because of what they now see others do on social media. Because of what students indiscriminately view on the social media platforms, they have resorted to the consumption of drugs and other forms of medications in a bit to maintain or acquire some sort of body shape based on what is trending on social media. Students’ dressing habits have no good story to write about nowadays as many tend to dress based on what is trending on the internet. Students’ dedication to their studies is seriously jeopardized because of the exciting and interesting distraction they face in their quest for knowledge on the internet.

With all these happening, it is no doubt that students are exposed to many forms of bullying as they use the internet and these inevitably confers on them some negative consequences. This study seeks to probe into some of these negativities that result from social media usage

1.4 Research Questions

This study seeks to answer the following general and specific research questions;

1.4.1 General Research Questions

Generally, the study seeks to answer the question “what are the experiences of female students of the University of Buea on to cyber bullying”?

1.4.2 Specific Research Questions

Specifically, the study seeks to answer the following questions;

  • What are the various forms of cyber bullying commonly faced by the students of the University of Buea?
  • What are the socio-demographic profiles of female University of Buea students who are victims of cyber bullying?
  • What are the factors associated with cyber bullying as perceived by female victims of the University of Buea?
  • How does cyber bullying affect the status and academic performance of female victims of the University of Buea


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