Cyberbullying and its effects on the mental well-being of adolescents
Studies investigating the effects of cyberbullying on the mental well-being of adolescents are needed to guide the development of preventive and protective measures for cyberbullying. Although a substantial number of studies have been undertaken on the prevalence of cyberbullying, research describing the effect of cyberbullying on the mental well-being and level of major depression among adolescents (for both the victim and the bully) are inconclusive for the South African context. This study was subsequently conceptualised based on a bio-ecological perspective that focuses on the hypothetical interrelationship between cyberbullying, adolescence, mental well-being and major depressive disorder. The main objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and nature of cyberbullying and its effect on and relationship to mental well-being among adolescents in the Matlosana municipal area (Dr Kenneth Kaunda district, North West province, South Africa). This quantitative research study was situated in a post-positivistic research paradigm. A survey design (which included the adapted Daphne Cyberbullying Questionnaire, the Mental Health Continuum Short Form and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9) was used to reach the aims of this study. A stratified random sampling procedure was initially used to identify participating schools, where after an availability sample was used. The sample group consisted of 187 (n) Grade 8 to 11 learners in the Matlosana municipal district in the North West province. The resulting data were analysed using descriptive statistics. Since the sample was an availability sample and not representative of the Matlosana district, generalisations to the rest of South Africa could not be made. The data analysis and interpretation included statistics pertaining to findings on adolescents’ experience of the school environment, the nature of electronics use among adolescents, the prevalence of cyberbullying and traditional bullying and the relationship between cyberbullying and traditional bullying; findings related to demographic differences with regard to cyberbullying and the nature of cyberbullying among adolescents, and lastly, findings on the effect of cyberbullying on the level of major depression and the mental well-being of the group involved in cyberbullying (both victims and bullies). The most prominent conclusions were that cyberbullying was definitely prevalent among this sample group and among South African adolescents, but cyberbullying is not a loose standing problem as it seems to be tied with traditional bullying. Yet, the anonymity and unbounded audience factors that make cyberbullying unique, contribute to the problem. Both cyberbullies and -victims in this sample suffered from major depressive disorder and they did not experience optimal mental well-being. Major risk factors of cyberbullying involvement included extensive, unrestricted and unsupervised use of electronics. It seems that adolescents need help with socialisation and relationship forming, as well as with developing useful protective strategies when they do come across cyberbullying. The study contributed to the body of scholarship on the prevalence and nature of cyberbullying and its effects on the mental well-being of adolescents (victims and bullies). The research extends the knowledge about the relationships between cyberbullying and mental well-being and cyberbullying and major depressive disorder. Various role players, such as adolescents (victims and bullies), schools, teachers, the Department of Education and parents will benefit from this study since a health promoting school approach towards online protection is recommended.
- Education 
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