Cyberbullying occurs when a minor is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child. Given that cyberbullying entails defamation or spreading false information or portfolios about someone, it is regarded as a violation of the ethical code of information use. The purpose of the study was to explore the perceptions, experiences and challenges of post-high school youth with regards to cyberbullying. This is a quantitative study that used a survey approach to gather data using a self-administered questionnaire, which was distributed to 60 youth from the KwaZulu-Natal computer literacy community engagement project. The findings attest that youth recognise that cyberbullying might have detrimental effects on victims, such as alcohol and drugs abuse, low self-esteem, high level of absenteeism, poor grades and depression and suicidal thoughts. There is a low percentage of victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying in rural contexts in South Africa. It is hoped that findings may will a positive impact in the rural communities and enable the youth to interact with the modern technologies and handle them in an ethical manner. The study recommends that parents need to take cognisance of the probable possible dangers of the various technologies so that they could be instrumental in educating their children about children cyberbullying. Further, the schools and the Department of Education can play a fundamental role in educating children about cyberbullying and cyber ethics.
This survey was conducted to explore youth perceptions and experiences, as well as violations, of ethics through cyberbullying as experienced by the rural community at Mbazwana in the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Convenience sampling was used, because although the questionnaire was distributed to all 60 participants in the project, not all of them completed the instrument, as participation was voluntary. Only 43 were completed, which is equal to 72 per cent response rate. The validity of the data collection instrument used was enhanced by the fact that questions were derived from the main objective of the study. Some themes of the instrument were self-designed and others were adapted from a similar study by Dehue et al. (2008), who looked at cyberbullying experiences of youth. The instrument was tried out in a pilot study in grade 12 classes in two high schools at Mbazwana in a bid to find out whether the learners would understand the questionnaire. Post-high school learners were considered to be at a similar level as the grade 12 learners polled. The pilot study proved its own importance: students who filled in the questionnaire indicated that they were not familiar with some terms and the researchers had to simplify the language to make it more understandable.
A large portion of the youth studied (45 per cent) indicated that they used their smartphones to access the internet, 25 per cent identified libraries as their source of access to the internet and 13 per cent reported accessing the internet from community laboratories (usually found in Department of Education centres). In total, 13 per cent of respondents reported accessing the internet from friends’ computers. Last, the smallest proportion at 4 per cent reported having internet access via their home desktop computers. The South African Mobile Report (2014) reveals that a great majority of South Africans access the internet via their own smartphones. These findings might indicate that many people nowadays do indeed have internet access in their regions.
The results of this study indicate that not all households own a desktop computer, as some people rely on community laboratories and others rely on friends who own desktop or laptop computers.
The study results reveal that most students who did the computer literacy course consider themselves at an “intermediate” level. It was noted that cellphones/smartphones play a significant role in gaining access to the internet and to social networking applications in rural communities. The social media applications most visited by youth in this study were shown to be Facebook and WhatsApp. Only a relatively low percentage of the respondents in this study in a rural context in South Africa reported being either victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying.
Social media give people ample opportunities to interact and socialise with other people in global context. Only a relatively low percentage of the respondents in this study in a rural context in South Africa reported being either victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying. It is hoped that insights gained from these findings may have a positive effect in the rural communities if awareness programmes are put in place to enable the youth to interact with the modern technologies and handle them in an ethical manner.
The contribution to the world of knowledge is that this study gives a clear indication of experiences and perceptions of cyberbullying in rural areas in South Africa. This will inform other scholars who want to engage in similar studies in different contexts that can be compared with the results of this study. It is notable that one cannot predict one’s own knowledge of a certain aspect of a community until one has fully engaged in research. Prior to this study, the researchers did not know whether the rural community youth participated in cyberbullying.
Ncube, L. and Dube, L. (2016), "Cyberbullying a desecration of information ethics", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 313-322. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-04-2016-0009Download as .RIS
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