Cyberbullying Research Proposal: Different Dimensions

Problem Statement

The rapid technological growth in the postmodern world has led to a tremendous change in social systems and social ways of communication. This causes new dimensions to parental and educational responsibilities demanding that people rethink the ethical use of technology both at home and school. While internet cellphones and other modern communication technologies enhance communication, they also expose adolescents to risky interactions that endanger their emotional and mental health. In particular, more than 95 percent of adolescents in the US are connected to the internet (Anderson, 2012). The transition from other forms of communication to online communication has triggered unique and potentially detrimental social interactions widely identified by literature as internet harassment and cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a relatively new form of bullying different from its traditional forms. Cyberbullying refers to any online-based communication that is made to hurt someone (Völlink et al., 2015). The communication may be in the form of humiliating pictures, threatening/ intimidating messages, disparaging comments, or harassing messages sent via the internet or texts (Anderson, 2012). This research proposal is a viable blueprint for advanced research on the negative outcomes of technology, cyberbullying, which takes on different dimensions from the traditional ways of bullying in terms of form, personality, and response.

Cyberbullying has been in existence for the last two decades causing devastation, jumped to her death after she was harassed over the online. Cyberbullying is more spread than traditional bullying because it reaches an unlimited audience and also goes unsupervised. The perpetrators of the vice do not collide with their targets physically and they don’t have to fear the immediate responsibility that comes with hurting someone. As such, the perpetrators are unable to develop significant humane feelings of accountability. Besides, cyberbullying was initially propagated through chat rooms, emails, and text messages but it has evolved over the years as adolescents increasingly use social networking sites (Völlink et al., 2015). Recent research findings reveal that 90 percent of adolescents regularly use the internet and 70 percent report having at least one user profile on a social networking site. Adolescents in the modern world interact over social networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and chat rooms. However, youths often use online social platforms to propagate violent acts such as harassment and bullying against their peers. Cyberbullying has grown into a national calamity affecting a large proportion of the adolescent population. The number of students who experience cyberbullying has been growing over the years with 6.2% of the student population reporting to have experienced it in 2009 (Anderson, 2012). This percentage grew to 9 percent in 2011 was recently reported at 34% in 2016 in the US. Again, 90 % of the students bullied online are also bullied offline. The increase in the number of students who fall victims of cyberbullying can be associated with increased access to social media and smartphones.

Unfortunately, it has been discovered that there is very poor reporting behavior among adolescents harassed over social networking sites. As such, only 10% of the harassed youths report to a trusted adult or any other individual. Again, the onlookers to cyberbullying being performed over a social networking site do not report to anyone either. Such bystanders who witness the harassment amount to 88 % of adolescents (Englander, 2013). Moreover, neither geographical location nor school size influences the risk of cyberbullying. For example, adolescents living in rural, suburban, or urban are at equal risk of experiencing cyberbullying. Moreover, both genders are at the risk of bullying regardless of their races. However, statistics have revealed that adolescent girls have a 22.1% greater chance of becoming a cyber-bullying victim compared to their male counterparts (Jensen, 2007).

The US Department of Health and Human Services has revealed some of the negative impacts of cyberbullying such as the increased risk of receiving poor grades, low self-esteem, absenteeism, drug abuse, and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression (Völlink et al., 2015). Mental problems such as depression are strongly associated with suicide attempts with cyberbullying victims presenting with suicidal thoughts more often than those who have not been a victim (Lindert, J. (2017). According to the recent research findings by the National Bullying Prevention Center, students who face peer victimization are 2.2 times more likely to develop suicide idealization and 2.6 times more likely to commit suicide than students not facing victimization (Jensen, 2007). The adolescent victims, who feel embarrassed, hardly afford to share the experience with their teachers or parents. Victimized teens often develop negative feelings and may start feeling insecure and lonely. According to the social work for social justice, every individual has a right to human dignity. However, cyberbullying violates the right to feel secure and respected as well as causing psychological problems and poor performance in academics. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 160,000 students skip going to school in a day due to the fears caused by being bullied (Anderson, 2012). The insecurity and low self-esteem caused by cyberbullying is a major cause of absenteeism in schools that leads to poor performance and poor mental health.

Cyberbullying is unethical and it increases emotional stress where young users are at high risk of being stressed by the cyberbullies. The resultant emotional stress subsequently inhibits the ability of the students to fully concentrate on their studies, adversely affecting their academic performance (Lindert, 2017). Nevertheless, learning institutions, emergency service providers, parents, and teachers hardly give any attention to the global problem of cyberbullying. The depression caused by cyberbullying contributes to poor performance among students in their studies. Therefore, cyberbullying in universities and schools continues to cause unimagined problems to educational institutions, parents, and students. Researchers subscribe to the idea that the stressful impact of bullying is intensifying with rapid technological advancement (Völlink et al., 2015). Modern technology increasingly causes more stress on students rather than being a tool for progression. As such, there is a growing need for institutional authorities, teachers, and parents to gain a deep insight of the impact and the rates of cyberbullying on the student performance and health for them to take concrete and proactive measures essential for addressing the problem.

According to recent studies, a substantial number of adolescents are victims of cyberbullying, a factor that guides us to the realization that this form of negative use of technology is becoming a serious problem. recent findings demand that we acquire a deep insight cyberbullying crime that would enable us to dissect the relationships among related variables in community, institutional, physical, and social contexts (Völlink et al., 2015). Cyberbullying is a form of aggression common in the learning institutions that negatively influence the academic performance and the emotional and psychological wellbeing of students. This study, therefore, explores the impact of cyberbullying on mental health and academic performance among adolescents. It is anticipated that such a study would be vital for gathering information essential for increasing the knowledge of scholars, educators, healthcare providers, and practitioners and subsequently help in promoting healthy social interactions among adolescents. Educators and parents would be in a better position to reduce cyberbullying and significantly reduce its impact and the possible emotional and social harm.

Initial work on cyberbullying by researchers focused on ascertaining the differences and similarities between the menace and its traditional version, the prevalence rates, and the sex-related effects. Minimal research has been done on establishing the psychosomatic, such as stomachaches and the psychosocial impact of cyberbullying. Psychosocial effects include anxiety and depression (Jensen, 2007). Therefore, there is a need to conduct more research on the impact of cyberbullying on the mental health of the affected adolescents as well as its effect on academic performance.

However, the definition of cyberbullying remains controversial. While some scholars have adopted a broad definition of cyberbullying such as ” the use of electronic means to intentionally harm an individual” others have adopted a conservative criterion to describe this form of bullying as a “willful and subsequent harm caused on a person through the use of cell phones, computers, or any other electronic device” (Anderson, 2012). However, in this case, cyberbullying will be used to refer to a form of bullying that occurs via electronic technology including social networking sites, messaging online, emails, texting, or any other online technology.

The primary objective of this research is to identify the victims of cyberbullying among adolescent students and critically analyze their frame of mind, emotional state, and their academic performance to assist in developing a workable and feasible intervention in fighting cyberbullying and its outcomes. Some of the variables to be investigated in this study include exam scores, rate of absenteeism, and signs of poor mental health such as anxiety and depression including suicidal feelings among adolescent cyber-bullying victims. The triangulation research method is to be utilized in this research where a descriptive, qualitative, and quantitative investigation is performed. The primary hypothesis to be investigated is that cyberbullying adversely affects student performance and causes psychological and emotional stress among adolescents.

Literature Review

The impact of cyberbullying is a topic of concern for mental health practitioners, school staff, parents, and youths which heavily relies on research. There is a lot of literature that links cyberbullying to poor mental health and poor academic performance among adolescents. As such, it is argued that cyberbullying is a major cause of severe symptoms of mental health problems including psychotic symptoms, violent behavior, and self-harm which can persist until late adolescence (Lindert, 2017). However, most of the existing journal articles have not convincingly proven that cyberbullying is the primary source of these difficulties. Lindert (2017) found that the impact of cyberbullying on rates of self-harming behaviors, anxiety, and depression may have been underestimated in the previous literature. The researcher found that large numbers of adolescents targeted via cyberbullying increasingly reported high levels of somatic symptoms, suicidal behaviors, loneliness, anxiety, and increased depressive effect. The perpetrators, on the other hand, reported increased substance use, delinquent behaviors, and aggression. However, the article revealed that there is a need for more longitudinal work made to investigate the effect of cyberbullying on adolescent health over time by investigating the progression of the observed behaviors in the institutions of higher learning. Also, Lindert recognizes that there is a need to address the existing definition of controversies as a way of establishing a better foundation for empirical research (Lindert, 2017).  Additionally, Linder’s study failed to investigate the impact of cyberbullying among different study groups among different culture which negatively influence the generalizability of the results.

Anderson (2012) in his two separate studies investigated the relationship between anxiety sensitivity, e-victimization, self-efficacy, and e-bullying among adolescents. The first research involved 225 adolescents aged between 11 and 17 where 49.3 percent of the adolescents were males while 50.7 percent were females. The second study involved 237 adolescents aged between 14 and 18 where 76.4 percent of the adolescents were females and the rest were males. Anderson’s research findings could not effectively reflect the gender variations in the impact of cyberbullying on adolescents because of the gender imbalance in the two studies. In the first study, Anderson found that there was no correlation between e-victimization, emotional self-efficacy, social self-efficacy, and academic self-efficacy (Anderson, 2012). However, it was found in the second study that cyberbullying significantly contributed to the development of depressive symptoms in adolescents and other negative psychological conditions (Anderson, 2012). Again, Anderson revealed that it was challenging to apply the basic conceptual definition of bullying to cyberbullying. For instance, the vice lacks socio-emotional cues such as vocal tone and prosody which make it challenging to ascertain the intent. Secondly, quantifying repetition is equally challenging because a single harmful act can be accessed by many viewers (Anderson, 2012). Moreover, cyberbullying differs from the traditional form of bullying in that its perpetrators have an opportunity to harass their target  24 hours a day, 7 days a week using internet media or texts, unlike the traditional form where the victims gain relief after changing the environment (Anderson, 2012).  The inconsistency observed in the two studies is a clear indication that there is a need for more research in investigating the impact of e-bullying and mental health of adolescents. Besides, theory on cyberbullying was found to be lacking and it is concluded that longitudinal data is required to deal with causation (Anderson, 2012).

According to Englander (2013), cyberbullying involves some subtle actions which if not controlled can easily escalate into more serious misbehaviors and negatively affect the academic performance of those involved. Englander found that adolescent victims of cyberbullying were more likely to suffer from depression and poor sleep. The mental problems among teens continue to aggravate as teens believe that cyberbullying is normal and parents do not need to intervene (Englander, 2013). The parents, on the other hand, want to intervene and solve the cyberbullying problems but do not know-how. Approximately 16.9% of the high school and middle students reported having been harassed by cyberbullies while 34 % of the students reported having been bullied at least once in their lifetime (Englander, 2013). Additionally, 34 percent of students who reported to be victims of cyberbullying also claimed to have developed feelings of insecurity and experienced a decline in their ability to learn at school (Englander, 2013). Another global issue facing cyberbullying student victims is Absenteeism where the victims stay away from the school out of the fear of further harassment (Englander, 2013). Again, the victims present with isolation behaviors that prompt them to select an unpopular subject and even trigger a sad mood that adversely affects their concentration and the ability to learn. Nevertheless, the common limitation is that there is minimal emphasis on the viable techniques of minimizing cyberbullying incidences among adolescents as well as reducing the impact of the vice among those already identified as victims.  This article emphasizes on the need to address the existing more sophisticated relationships in the circumstances of cyberbullying and reports that most of the recent surveys are limited in that they involve poor measurement techniques and they have been unable to detect potential underreporting of cyberbullying among boys (Englander, 2013).

Jensen (2007) found that the malicious aggressive behavior made to harm others observed among bullies gains motivation from an imbalance in strength and power between the parties involved. This power imbalance in cyberbullying is created by a large number of online supporters of the perpetrator, anonymity, and the victimized belonging to a marginalized group.

The researcher also points out that bully-victims are at an increased risk of developing behavioral and mental problems such as misconduct problems, hyperactivity, suicide ideation, anxiety, and depression (Jensen, 2007). Both the bullies and the bullied were found to be at risk of developing mental health problems with most girls presenting with eating disorders. Suicidal idealizations observed among bully-victims were found to be associated with generally high levels of aggressiveness. Jensen also found that bully-victims were more likely to register low academic performance and feel unsafe at school than bystanders. Although, Jensen did not find any effect of direct bullying on academic achievement for students in grade 4 and 2 but he found that indirect bullies performed better in academics compared to direct bullies. The researchers equally reported effect for the well-known variables such as small classes, rural schools, socioeconomic status, and special educational needs. Moreover, the researcher figured out that bullying negatively affected grades at both the school and student level (Jensen, 2007). As such, learning institutions with high levels of bullying were found to register low grades while a link between poor academic performance and cyberbullying was discovered. Jensen (2007) found that there was a strong association between experiencing more than one type of violence where sexual or any other form of violence inflicted by adults or youths increased the negative impact on academic performance. Additionally, both traditional and cyberbullying adversely affected academic achievements among the student s involved (Jensen, 2007). However, this article failed to differentiate the bully-victims from the bullies and the victims.

Völlink et al. (2015) found that victims of cyberbullying generally perceive cyberbullies as cowards, sad and self-embarrassing. Again, cyberbullying victims find it hard to accept and internalize the harassment experienced during the incidence where 15% of adult victims bullied during their high school life present with psychological problems that hinder them from getting a good job (Völlink et al., 2015). Again, neglected cyberbullying victims may feel so desperate that they end up harming themselves or even committing suicide. In a similar survey involving 1963 US middle-school students conducted in 2007, it was discovered that both the perpetrator and his or her target developed suicidal thoughts but the victims were more likely to attempt suicide (Völlink et al., 2015). This is because cyberbullying adversely affect the psychological health of victims where they feel alienated from the community and the school and experience traumatic stress. While some cyberbullying victims become extremely embarrassed following online harassment others are extremely scared or upset. Frequent incidences of bullying contributed to low self-esteem and increased the chances of school dropout, failure, and increased psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression (Völlink et al., 2015). Additionally, students who experience cyberbullying find it hard to concentrate during lessons where about 62% of learner victims hardly pay attention to school work while approximately 5% always think of the bullies (Völlink et al., 2015). Cyberbullying victims typically attain lower grades and are at risk of a poor academic performance compared to non-victims. Some researchers maintain that cyberbullying often leaves the victim with mental anguish and destroys their self-esteem causing a drop in academic performance (Völlink et al., 2015). However, Völlink reported that mental health problems developed by teens involved in cyberbullying can be alleviated by holding family dinner which provides an opportunity for the family to interact and positively impact the overall mental health of adolescents.

 Design and Procedures

Mixed methods approach is suitable for collecting data that can be used to validate the hypotheses of the study. A quantitative approach is the most suitable where precise human behavior is involved because it quantifies the observed aspects by generating usable statistics or numerical data and, therefore, can be used to quantify feelings, behaviors, opinions, and other variables defined in the research. Again, quantitative research approach employs more structured data collection methods such as online surveys and mobile surveys to generate measurable data that can be used to formulate facts and uncover patterns in research. However, a qualitative research approach is equally important in the survey to help the researcher dive deeper into the cyberbullying problem and uncover trends in opinions, thoughts, and motivations. Therefore, a qualitative approach should be added to the study to ensure that the researcher does not miss out on significant aspects of subjective human experiences, personal feelings, and meanings. As such, a mixed-methods approach is essential in the research as precise human behaviors can easily be ascertained. Besides, examining the impact of cyberbullying on academic performance and mental health requires a retrospective approach (Lindert, 2017). In a retrospective study, participants are requested to give an account of their past experiences relevant to the research question. A suitable time frame for the participants in the period between grade 9 and 12 where the candidates respond to the questions regarding the cyberbullying experiences encountered within the timeframe excluding any current experiences.


The research has to be approved by the ethic’s board of any selected university or learning institution before the actual survey is conducted among the adolescent students within the institution. Moreover, the American Psychological Association ethical standards should be strictly adhered to while conducting the study. The study is made to be part of a larger project on peer relationships among adolescent students and their offline and online behaviors. The research is to be conducted among randomly selected 100 public schools and 50 Universities. The emails soliciting free consent and the survey details should be sent to the school principals and heads for transparency. Where necessary, a meeting involving the institutions’ management, students, and the principal investigator can be scheduled to discuss critical issues such as the duration of the study, the legible participants, and the research details. Again, the institution’s psychologists can significantly contribute to the study where they would give critical statistics on the students with mental complications without disclosing personal details on the diagnosed students. The questionnaire should include demographic aspects such as age, gender, and ethnicity and other variables being investigated such as anxiety, peer rejection, cyberbullying victimization, depression, and having suicidal thoughts. The collected data is to be recorded in demographic and other tables and analyzed to make viable deductive conclusions from the research.  The demographic protocol is essential to ensure that the participants meet the requirements for the study. Such a research procedure is essential in guiding the research and ensuring its conformity to the existing ethical standards to avoid subsequent accusations and detention.


More than 2000 participants should be involved in the research with the selection done based on their age and being a current student at any university of interest. Again, the participants should be selected randomly to minimize bias and should conform to the age requirement of between 12 to 18 years. It is also advisable that the participants be a mixture of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen to improve the quality of the research. Recruitment of these participants can be done by sharing emails to the students within any university of choice who meet the desired selection criterion or even sharing a text over other social media platforms of convenience. The contents of the shared text or email should offer a link to participate and describe various aspects of the study such as confidentiality, how to contact the researcher with questions, the voluntary nature of the study, why they were selected for the study, and explanation on the purpose of the study. Additionally, the participants can be provided with a consent form that outlines the confidentiality procedures and explains the benefits and risks of participating in the survey as well as allowing the participants to withdraw from the survey at will (Englander, 2013). The survey is to be conducted anonymously online and equally distributed via an anonymous link devoid of any identification requirement.

Measurement of Variables

Measuring cyber-bullying can be challenging, a factor which has contributed to limited success among most surveys who fail to effectively use the qualitative approach. Measurements based on observations, teacher ratings or nominations, or even self-report questionnaires are prone to over-reporting or underreporting. However, increasing the size of the sample can significantly reduce the error margin in the collected data. Again, the measuring approach influences the prevalence rates where behavior-based approaches yield higher prevalence rates.

Outcome variables

Self-reported health status of the adolescents should be measured by asking the adolescents a multiple-choice question such as “what do you think about your health in present situation” and allowing them to choose from the following options (1=very poor, 2=fairly poor, 3=average, 4= fairly good, 5=very good). During the analysis, the “fairly poor”, and the “very poor” responses can be combined as poor. The Likert Scale or the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale would be essential in ascertaining the general attitude of the responded towards him or herself. Self-esteem is vital in gauging the impact of the cyberbullying incidence on the emotional health of the victim. The scores assigned to each of the responses can be weighed by matching them to the scores provided in the Likert scale. Again, the adolescent’s academic performance can be measured using a question like, “Which response best describes your academic performance for the last one year compared to the previous years?” with responses such as (1=very poor, 2=fairly poor, 3=average, 4= fairly good, 5=very good). Any response from these choices would enable the researcher to ascertain the impact of cyberbullying on the academic performance of the respondent.

Subjective health complaints can be measured by asking the adolescents if they had experienced depression, tension, headaches, or irritation after witnessing or getting involved in a cyber-bullying incidence which would have led to ill health either mentally or physically and the expected response are dummy (yes or no). All the symptoms are to be combined to form a composite variable categorized into five options as 0= having no symptoms at all, 1=having one symptom out of four, 2=having two symptoms out of four, 3= having three symptoms out of four, 4= having all the symptoms. Those who report having three and above symptoms can be assumed to have mental health issues arising from a cyber-bullying incident especially where the respondent confess to having been victimized online by bullies.

Measurement of independent variables

The responses to the asked questions can be quantified and ordinal level of measurement implemented. As such, the various survey attributes are ranked-ordered and codes assigned to the attributes where higher numbers have more weight. In this case, the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale can be used to assess depressive symptoms among adolescents while anxieties symptoms can be assessed using the Multinational Anxiety scale for children

Data Collection

The required data is to be collected through a questionnaire shared in the form of an online survey and face-to-face interviews where possible. The questionnaire should have a well-developed demographic inquiry and interview protocol. While the demographic inquiry should seek to investigate the age, gender, and the ethnicity of the participant, the interview protocol should highlight the instructions of responding to the questions, ice-breaker questions, probes for soliciting individual ideas, and an expression of gratitude for participation.

The questions to be contained in the questionnaire should be a mixture of open-ended, where the participants fill their responses and multiple-choice questions where the respondent is required to select a reply from the choices given. Moreover, some multiple-choice questions can be set in a manner that the participants select more than one choice. The various aspects to be covered by the survey questions include general aspects of cyberbullying, the impact of cyberbullying on academic performance and mental health, cyberbullying victimization, and the participant’s involvement in cyberbullying. Since the survey is to be retrospective, the college-aged participants should be asked questions that revolve around incidences occurring in the recent past to enable them to clearly remember and give viable responses.

Nevertheless, more impact questions should be included in the survey such as questions soliciting the emotions and feeling aroused by the cyberbullying incidence. The impact response questions can be categorized into either behavioral or emotional. While behavioral responses manifest outwardly and can be observed emotional impacts are internal and are difficult to observe. The responses are also evaluated using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale to ascertain the general attitude of the responded towards him or herself and measure the impact of the cyberbullying incidence on the emotional health of the victim.

Data analysis

The data collected should be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. The qualitative data collected from the interview sessions should be analyzed by either using a framework analysis approach or thematic network analysis approach. The former technique entails examining the findings with the pre-defined framework dictated by the study question and hypotheses while the latter encourages one to code all the data and allow for new dimensions of interpreting the data. Data analysis starts by familiarizing oneself with the collected data through reading and re-reading the available materials in their entirety. The data is reduced into codes for easy interpretation and analysis. The codes are then fed into qualitative data analysis software such as Atlas. Ti or Nvivo. The qualitative analysis is used to analyze the open-ended questions implementing techniques such as content analysis approach. This approach is an objective coding scheme that utilizes text counts to retrieve and organize data. While using the content analysis technique, the researcher ascertains common themes in the open-ended questions and counts them to know their frequency.

Quantitative data, on the other hand, which consists of mainly categorical variables, in this case, are analyzed differently. The analysis starts by categorizing the data into distinct groups and generating frequency tables using Microsoft excel. The data contained in frequency tables can be used to calculate other values such as variance, standard deviation, and mean. The measures of dispersion are calculated to attach meaning to the data. Again, the Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficients, standard deviations, and the mean should be calculated to test the study hypotheses. The data can also be converted into a graph for more visual presentation. Proportions can be equally calculated from the data and percentages developed by multiplying the proportion by 100. The quantitative data can be analyzed using Independent t-test and descriptive statistics. Descriptive statistics offer a primary description of occurrences in the data, standard deviation, range, mode, median, and the mean. The researcher uses descriptive statistics analysis technique to analyze gender parities, the frequency of mental health complications such as lack of sleep, depression, and anxiety reported by those harassed on the social networking sites. An independent t-test approach is used to analyze the overall impact of cyberbullying among adolescents who report suicidal thoughts and those who did not report such thoughts.

Interpretation of results

Additionally, the data interpretation should be done concerning the study questions and the hypotheses developed by the researcher. An honest narrative can be created within the framework of qualitative study if possible sources of bias arising from the research are highlighted through self-reflection. The best technique of combating bias involves using large samples and many statistical tools to assess the bias risk and ensure everything is okay with the research. Nevertheless, the researcher needs to be keen and aware of the possibility and bias and actively work towards ensuring the credibility of the data analysis, collection, and measurements. Inconsistencies within the collected data can be established through proofreading and uploading the compiled document to Dodoose software program for further analysis (Anderson, 2012). Again, the compiled summary of the established differences and consistencies can be forwarded to peer-reviewers to be analyzed.

Ethics and Conduct of Research

Researchers are faced with two major ethical dilemmas which include the need to uphold the principle of non-maleficence and addressing the conflict of interest between the roles of the citizen, the authorities involved, and the researcher. The principle of non-maleficence demands that the researcher works towards minimizes the risk of causing harm or any form of discomfort for the adolescents involved in the survey. The notion of harm in this research involving social interaction among teens may entail economic, social, or psychological harm. For instance, breaching confidentiality and the privacy of the cyberbullying survey participants may expose them to the social stigma that results in social harm. The array of harm, in this case, entails an infringement of rights, psychological discomfort, emotional harm, social exclusion and invasion of privacy (Jensen, 2007). The code of ethics that guides researchers require that the participants be safeguarded from the unwarranted invasion of their privacy, unreasonable disruption of their daily lives, danger, discomfort, physical, and mental harm. However, cyberbullying research is virtually intrusive and invasive. As such, the researcher takes advantage of vulnerable innocent students to have them disclose their private experiences and thus consent is essential. On the contrary, harm, in this case, takes on different aspects such as paying little attention to confidentiality that puts the participants to the potential risk of retaliation by the community or their family.

There are three subtypes of ethics that need to be considered while conducting research which include: procedural ethics, ethics in practice, and research ethics (Völlink et al., 2015). Procedural ethics demands that the researcher seeks approval from the relevant ethics committee to undertake research.  Ethics in practice, on the other hand, covers all the ethical issues that arise in doing the actual survey. Lastly, research ethics is articulated in the professional codes of conduct or ethics. Researchers are expected to behave professionally during the survey to avoid being detained for legal actions. Ethics challenge both the wellbeing of the respondents and the integrity of scholars. Researchers must pay attention to ethics by considering the impact of the research on the lives of the target population, the appropriateness of the methods used in the research, the role played by the researchers, and the justification of their decisions. As such, the research on the effect of cyberbullying on the academic performance and the mental health of adolescent students ought to be conducted in full respect for human dignity and worth and commitment to social justice (Anderson, 2012).  The survey questions should be formulated in such a way that they preserve the dignity of the respondent. For instance, the research should be conducted with total adherence to the cultural norms of the respondent. Cultural significantly influence the respondent’s perception of the definition and the impact of cyberbullying. Besides researchers are mandated to work closely with service users, challenge unjust practices and policies, recognize diversity, and challenge negative discrimination.

Ethical considerations are a challenge that influences each phase of the research process. The first ethical issue relates to the directions of the research, it’s funding and auspices where a conflict of interest is likely to arise between the researcher and the sponsor and the principal investigator. Conflict of interest may also be a factor of the researcher’s professional advancement, emotional, financial, or reputational interests (Englander, 2013). Researchers are also mandated to use consent procedures in all their research. consequently, some of the practical challenges that are likely to arise from the adherence to consent procedures are that most students found to be suitable for the study may not be willing to disclose their details due to fear of victimization. Again, some students who may not trust the researchers may not disclose some information to the interviewer, especially personal information. The previous studies have had this as a challenge where only small population agrees to participate in the research leading to a small sample that limits the credibility of the study. Therefore, ethics influence the sampling and the study designs where the diverse groups should be involved in the research to address issues of social justice and diversity. Additionally, the selected research methods must seek to empower service users.

Informed consent is a critical issue in the design, sampling, and data collection phases of the research. Informed consent is the most significant ethical consideration as the researcher must be approved by the relevant regulatory bodies to be entrusted with confidential information and assurance that he or she will not breach the confidentiality of the information. However, obtaining informed consent is influenced by the social, linguistic, and cultural divides and, therefore, can be methodologically and ethically complex (Anderson, 2012). Moreover, victims of cyberbullying find it hard to trust anyone and may not be willing to form any friendships following the harassment and the resultant mental trauma. Therefore, most researchers investigating any factor of cyberbullying often find a lot of difficulties in securing a meaningful sample size at this very phase of acquiring informed consent.

Another major challenge is the recognition of the subject of cyberbullying under federal law. For example, federal law uses the term “harassment” rather than “bullying”. The two terms differ thematically in that bullying involves an element of power imbalance an aspect which is found to be missing in the federal law. Learning institutions are expected to guard and protect the rights of all the learners within the institution by formulating and enforcing anti-bullying laws and policies. However, cyber-bullying is not limited to within the school environment and there is poor reporting behavior among the students, an aspect which makes it difficult for the institutions to fulfill their mandate. As such, some institutions may not be willing to allow researchers to investigate incidences of cyberbullying as high rates of the cyberbullying crime may suggest negligence of the school management to protect the students from being bullied.

Linking low grades to cyberbullying poses another practical challenge. There are so many factors that may cause mental health problems such as anxiety and depression that may even trigger suicidal thoughts. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that the research procedures and methods take into account the possibility of having other influences to the poor academic performance and poor mental health. Where the researcher only manages to access a small sample of the adolescent students, the credibility of the study findings may be in question. Gender comparison may also be challenging since most previous studies reveal fewer boys than girls who agree to participate in the survey. In some other instances, the researcher may plan to interrogate a large population within an institution and only manage to convince a small population after investing large amounts of finances. Therefore, most of the research can be done online to cut on costs and enable the researcher to attract respondents from different parts of the country. However, a major challenge with online surveys is that it is difficult to ascertain the honesty of the respondent. This challenge can be minimized by having a large sample of the adolescent student population and assigning scores to their responses which are to be used to calculate the mean and average values that help in reducing the margin of error.

Nevertheless, political affiliations also are a major cause of cyberbullying among students. Political interests compel students to abuse or spread rumors about those perceived to be part of their opponents. Those involved in politics may be less willing to disclose the information to the researchers. Publishing any information that appears to be inclined to criticizing any political party or prominent agencies is likely to attract a lot of critics from the people concerned. Again, the government has not formulated adequate laws that can sufficiently define and address the issue of cyberbullying. Although cyberbullying is globally illegalized, the formulated laws only form the floor of handling the actual bullying incidences among students. The government entrusts the learning institutions with the responsibility of formulating policies that inhibit the occurrence of cyberbullying incidences among students.

Excluding research findings which do not meet the requirements and the expectations of the regulatory bodies may be challenging and complicated. It is required that any new research findings be summarized and presented to peer reviewers to analyze and ascertain their credibility. In cases where the findings fail to meet the predefined criterion or present with inconsistent results, the researcher is made to review the findings or even have the data invalidated. This is a major challenge to the researchers who may not be in the capacity to undertake another research. Moreover, publishing or disseminating confidential information that puts the students who participated at the risk of possible identification is a breach of research ethics.



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Jensen, P. (2007). Bullying, Psychosocial Adjustment, and Academic Performance in Elementary School. Yearbook of Psychiatry and Applied Mental Health2007, 19-20. doi:10.1016/s0084-3970(08)70321-9

Lindert, J. (2017). Cyber-bullying and its impact on mental health. European Journal of Public Health27(suppl_3). doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckx187.581

Völlink, T., Dehue, F., & Guckin, C. M. (2015). Cyberbullying: From Theory to Intervention. London, England: Routledge.





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