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Cyberbullying in Germany – an Exploration of Prevalence, Overlapping with Real Life Bullying and Coping Strategies

This study shows, that cyberbullying exists in Germany, although the number of incidents is still rather small. It could also be shown, that the pupils who act as cyberbullies are the same as those who bully others in real life.

In the research, there are three hypotheses;

  1. Although the data can hardly be considered representative, it can still be used as a rough first estimate for the prevalence of cyberbullying in Germany. Researchers expect the prevalence in Germany to differ significantly from zero.
  2. If the hypotheses “old wine in new bottles” is true, then researchers have to assume, that persons who bully in cyberspace are the same as those who bully in real life. The same is true for the victims.
  3. The question of how students react to cyberbullying and if the reactions can be compared to those of traditional bullying (physical and verbal) will be analysed in an explorative manner. However, researchers expect similar factors for different kinds of bullying. This means a restrictive testing of an equivalent confirmatory structure for physical, verbal and cyberbullying

The first finding is, that even if we can’t be a hundred percent sure of the exact prevalence, we are safe to state that cyberbullying does exist in Germany. The second result of this study gives the answer to that question: Until we have further explored cyberbullying with all its special features and their implications, we have to rely on the methods that have been developed in order to tackle traditional bullying. Due to the fact that firstly the involved persons are in many cases the same people and secondly bullying and cyberbullying both rest upon the same principles (intention to hurt, repetition, imbalance of power and helplessness), we can presume, that those methods should have a positive effect. However, interventions do not have to start from zero. Children and adolescents already have coping strategies. Those could be used as a base. As the third finding of this study suggests, the reactions towards bullying and cyberbullying are also roughly the same. So once again, as a starting point, it would probably be sufficient to teach pupils how to cope with bullying. However, before this can be realised, we first have to identify those strategies that are most successful. Strengthening of self-efficiacy, understanding one’s own feelings and cognitions in a situation of bullying could be taught as techniques to be used in order to reduce helplessness and the probability of inadequate reactions.

The exploration of coping strategies showed, that a common factor structure underlies physical, verbal and cyberbullying. Considering the fact that the findings of the study are based on an online questionnaire with restricted representativeness (based on a sample of 1987 pupils), the results should however be interpreted carefully. The same overlap was found to be true for the victims. Cyberbullying can therefore be considered a subcategory of ordinary bullying instead of being considered a whole new phenomenon.


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