Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $458,246)
The purpose of this basic research project is to classify the contents of cyberbullying messages, assess their frequency and associations with offline bullying, and examine whether and how peer groups in social networks promote these behaviors. Approximately 400 adolescents, grades 6 through 8, in three Iowa middle schools that have significant minority populations (14% Native American in school 1, 20% racial minorities in schools 2 and 3) will be surveyed. Two surveys, one in the fall semester and one in the spring, will gather self-reported information on perpetration, victimization, and witnessing of online and offline bullying and the structure of peer networks. Data will also be gathered during spring semester from a subgroup of participants who are smartphone users. Their smartphones will be equipped with software that is designed to capture incoming and outgoing text messages and Facebook activity and to periodically survey them about their bullying experiences. To identify and measure the frequency of cyberbullying, the contents of electronic communications will be analyzed using techniques from computer science and communications research and self-reported information on bullying experiences. Using formal social network analyses, whether cyberbullying is related to the structure and composition of peer networks, including affiliation with peers who engage in offline bullying or delinquency will be examined. In addition to providing NIJ with a wealth of data, the proposed research will inform scientific studies, policy decisions, and the public by increasing knowledge about actual cyberbullying communications and the social contexts in which they are embedded.