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Cyber victimization refers to the use of electronic media with the intent of causing harm, humiliation, suffering, fear and despair for the individual who is the target of aggression and this has now grown to be a source of concern to parents, researchers, and teachers. This paper sought to measure the level of knowledge, the attitudinal disposition, perception and cyber-activity of undergraduates in a selected private institution. It also sought to check for associations between these afore listed independent variables and cyber victimization.
The study adopted the cross-sectional survey design. The Multistage sampling technique was used to select 426 undergraduates of Babcock University. A validated instrument for data collection was developed based on constructs in the Health Belief Model and administered. The instrument measured knowledge on a 9-point rating scale, attitudinal disposition on a 12-point rating scale, perception on a 33-point rating scale and Cyber victimization on an 8-point rating scale. Nine research questions were answered and six hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance. Data were analyzed using Pearson Product Moment Correlation and Linear Regression alongside ANOVA.
The mean age of respondents was 19.50±3.14 (44.8%). The study produced a level of knowledge to be at 66.3%, attitudinal disposition (44.7%), Perception (56.18%), Cyber-activity (56.18%) and Cyber victimization (15.37%). The study revealed that knowledge had a significant but negative linear relationship with cyber victimization (R2=0.036, R= -1.90, P˂0.05). Attitudinal disposition also had a significant but negative linear relationship with cyber victimization (R2=0.011, R= -0.10, P˂0.05). There was no significant relationship between perception and cyber victimization (R2= 0.0003, R= -0.019, P˃0.05). Cyber-activity had a significant relationship with cyber victimization (R2= 0.037, R= 0.191, P˂0.05).
The study therefore concluded that cyber-activity had the highest influence in exposing the students to cyber victimization. Therefore, Students should be sensitized on the use and importance of data limiters as a way of monitoring their cyber- activities. Sensitization programs should be carried out for an increased awareness on the menace of cyber victimization as this will provide a broader spectrum of how the issue of cyber victimization is perceived as well as how susceptible they might be without them even being aware of it.
Keywords: Cyber victimization, Cyber-activity, Knowledge on cyber victimization, Attitudinal disposition towards cyber victimization, Perception on cyber victimization.
The use of digital technology has developed over the last few decades. The use of these technologies have become very paramount to many of our daily activities which includes but not limited to sending and receiving text messages, emails, relating with friends and loved ones on social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, and twitter etc. This invariably aids us in working more efficiently, have information on our fingertips, connect and communicate with people. Many adolescents have grown up completely eloped in the digital world through the use of electronic gadgets and never will believe that they could go about their daily task without the use of the internet (Madden, Lenhart, Duggan, Cortesi, & Gasser, 2013).
According to the Nigerian Communication commission (NCC), the number of phones being used is about 99 million and it is also observed that the mobile internet is fast overtaking the traditional “fixed” internet in the country. It was also observed that there are close to 25 million smart phone users in the country out of which 65% are youths (Ken, 2012).
Digital technology usage has both positive and negative consequences (Bavelier, Green, & Dye, 2010). Based on the report by the Nigerian Communication Commission that the demand for stylish smartphones by Nigerians due to some special features that is embedded in them seem to be on the rise, adolescents exposure to the negative consequences (cyber victimization) of digital technology is also on the rise. Cyber victimization has arisen as a new issue in public mental health which predominantly affects youths today. Cyber victimization is on the high rise due to an increase in mobile phones usage and the internet and this increase has provided a new dome for both social associations and chances for abuse (Asaga, Hoven, Suzuki, Sourander, et .al 2012; Wang, Lannotti & Nansel, 2009; Mishna, Saini & Solomon, 2009; Chang, Chiu, His, Lee, et.al 2013). Studies that were earlier carried out revealed that the rates of cyberbullying among the young and steady users of the Internet that are amid the ages of 10-17 years old range from 4 to 72 % (Juvonen & Gross, 2008; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2004), and lesser rates among students of colleges when compared with adolescent samples which range from 9-20 % (Kraft &Wang, 2010; McDonald, Roberts & Pitman,2010; Scherer, Snyder & Fisher, 2016; Schenk & Fremouw, 2012).
From statistical reports which indicate the fact that 93% of teens are active users of the Internet, also showing that 75% own a mobile phone, up from 45% in 2004, it can be held that there is unlimited possibility for cyberbullying among youths. The Internet is considered today as the most technologically innovative avenue for communicating throughout the world; this is so because it has the ability to share digital material through a common set of networking and software protocol (Okorie, 2009; Okorie & Oyedepo, 2011). The ability and ease of sending text messages and having Internet access has influenced social interaction among teenagers in recent times. Most teenagers have a private computer or cell phone and engage in communications daily with a large number of people at the same time, and this therefore exposes them to repercussion which is in some cases can be harmful resulting from the influences of the instant contacts they have.
A study by Palmeri (2013) affirms that cyberbullying is a unique component that can be especially damaging for victimized adolescents. An example of this statement by Palmeri is taking for instance a situation whereby an individual who has fallen prey to a cyber-bully gets lot of messages and within minutes the same cyber bully proceeds to posting very harassing messages on its victims Twitter account or even Facebook’s status or even undressed pictures of its victims, likewise also sending text messages that are very offensive to the victim. With the growing popularity of social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and instant messenger services e.g. IM chat, Twitter and this does not always lead to positive experiences (Gross, 2004). While the Internet is considered as a necessary channel through which the upcoming generation can participate in a diversity of public and civic engagements which aids a great level of interaction with a larger scope of human activities and also learn effectively (Livingstone, 2009), there lies a concern among parents, health professionals and policy formulators over these young folks encounters with detrimental internet content or risk. (Livingstone, Haddon, Gorzig & Olafsson, 2011; UNICEF, 2011).
Mesch (2009) suggests that cyberbullying exposes the children’s mental, physical and emotional wellbeing to risk and also puts the society at risk of moral decline and ethical decline. Research has shown till this date that similar to information that has been documented on traditional bullying, cyberbullying victims report more loneliness, depression and anxiety when they are likened to their peers that have never been cyber victimized (Kowalski, Limber & Agatson, 2014; Sourander, Brunstein & Ikonen, 2010). Also, young individuals that have become victims who have been harassed online have become increasingly prevalent (Jones, Mitchell & Finkelhor, 2012), and online experiences such as these have been found to be associated with their suicidal behaviours (Hay & Meldrum, 2010). Cyber bullies alongside cyber bully/victims have been discovered to have worse subjective health than those not involved as cyber bullies or cyber bullied victim (Laftman, Modin & Ostberg, 2013). Patchin and Hinduja (2006) from their studies showed that 40% cyberbullying victims felt angry, 43% felt frustrated, more than 27% of them felt sad and finally 27% confessed that it affected them at home. Cyber victims are also susceptible to psychosomatic symptoms such as abdominal pains, sleeplessness and headaches (Sourander, Brunstein, Ikonen & Lindroos, et.al, 2010).
Studies in time past have revealed that a significant relationship exist between affective disorders and an individual’s involvement in cyberbullying. Example of this are the results which indicate that a significant relationship exist between depression among adolescents and cyber victimization, (Klomek, Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld, et.al, 2008; Wigderson & Lynch, 2013) and amid college students (Schenk & Fremouw, 2012). In addition to this, victims are exposed to social isolation which therefore results in their engaging in unsafe acts such as substance abuse and consumption of alcohol (Schneider, Donnel, Stueve & Coulter, 2012; Williams, Connolly, Pepler & Craig, 2005). While there has been considerable attention from the media which has focused on cyber bully victims, it has been shown from research that cyberbullying perpetration is also associated with negative health effects. For example, adolescent girls who have been cyber bullies have been discovered to have increased rates of anxiety and depression when they are compared with their peers not engaged in cyberbullying (Kowalski & Limber, 2013).
Knowledge on cyber victimization can curtail the rise in cyber bullying if these youths actually do adequately understand the real concept. There are cases where an individual might be playing the role of a cyber-bully without the individual realizing it. This study aims at giving an exposition to the students about their level of knowledge about the concept of cyber victimization.
Attitudinal disposition of youths towards cyber victimization also reflects their orientation towards it. A negative orientation towards cyber victimization invariably means it is not considered as anything harmful to their health while a positive orientation towards it shows it is really considered as something to be taken seriously and avoided using all manner of measures. A positive attitudinal disposition towards cyber victimization creates a likelihood of behavioural change. Perception of cyber victimization among students reveals how much they consider it as either a threat and how detrimental it can be to their mental health. The level of perception could also create likelihood for behavioural change.
Cyber –activity which reflects the time spent online is also a serious factor that can influence the rate of cyber victimization. The higher the number of hours spent online, the higher the potential of getting victimized. If youths consider cyber-activity a source of posing a great risk of they being cyber victimized, then there is also a likelihood of behavioural change as regards the number of hours that will be spent online.
Therefore, due to the rise in cyber activity among these youths, there is a very high potential that they will experience cyber victimization if they lack the right knowledge, attitude and perception towards cyber victimization. The rate of cyber activity will either reduce or increase the likelihood that these youths will experience cyber victimization. Therefore the researcher’s interest is to assess the level of knowledge, attitude and perception of these youths and to also measure their cyber-activity, as the researcher considers this a proactive measure in assessing the possible level of susceptibility of these youths falling prey to cyber bullies. Possible intervention studies is also hoped to be developed if needs be after this study is completed.
It has been noted that cyberbullying victims are four times likely to have depressive symptoms and are also five times likely to attempt committing suicide when compared to non-victims (Schneider, Donnell, Stueve & Coulter, 2012). Cyber victimization which is more prevalent in the western world due to their high advancement in technology also has a very high potential of rising in Africa and also in Nigeria due to the transition from the analog age into a fully digital web-based interaction era in which most tasks are carried out using the internet. Also, youths are predominantly involved in social interactions using social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Twitter , Facebook, 2go, Instagram, etc, and this also increases the likelihood of all the negative consequences such as being cyberbullied which ranges from from posting naked pictures of the cyber victims , posting messages that defame the victims character, impersonation alongside many others. Cyberbullying also affects the physical, emotional, social and cognitive functioning and wellbeing of the victims. From research carried out by Patchin & Hinduja (2006), it was gathered that 27% of victims of cyberbullying felt sad, 40% felt angry, 43% felt frustrated and 27% confessed that it affected them at home. Therefore, Suicidal ideation which could stem from the victims being depressed resulting from their experiences of these form of bullying such as cases where naked images of them are posted on a social media platform and comments made that defame their character could eventually result into the victims committing suicide .
Also, future relationships such as marital relationship adolescents could be negatively affected due to the psychological trauma undergone via cyber victimized experiences, in cases where these adolescents experienced falsehood, as people fake their personalities on social media platforms.
An increased level in online presence has a tendency to lead to cyber addiction, exposure to pornographic addictions which leads to decline in moral character, development of deviant behaviours due to the nature of interactions. Adolescents caught in this web could also resort to the use of drugs to quell their emotions as a result of frustration over time. All this constitutes a major distraction away from their academics and leads to a decline in academic performance. These in turn could lead to a ruin in such as in the adolescent’s career if there is no proper intervention from either their teachers or parents. Taking into consideration all these negative consequences that awaits a youth who spends so much time online and does not have the adequate knowledge, has a lackadaisical attitude and a very poor perception towards cyber bullying; this raises a serious concern to the researcher about the possible harm that awaits these youths if necessary measures are not taken. To this end, it is very pertinent that the students should have the adequate knowledge, attitude and perception alongside curtail their level of cyber activity which will have a resultant effect in reducing the potential of they being cyber victimized which comes with grave consequences. This can only be done by first assessing their level of knowledge, attitude and perception towards cyber victimization and as well assessing their rate of online presence. Therefore this study seeks to assess the level of Knowledge, attitude, perception and the rate of cyber activity of students.
Cyber victimization as an emerging area of public health is underexplored and poses a severe risk; hence cyber victimization continues to be a serious public health problem with devastating outcome. Many studies have been conducted but the necessary parameters have not been scientifically stated using a conceptual framework. Therefore, this research seeks to explore subject matters such as knowledge, attitude and perception of cyber victimization and cyber-activity using the Health Belief Model (HBM) as the conceptual framework.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine the level of Knowledge, Attitude, Perception and Cyber-Activity on Cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University. The specific objectives are to:
1. ascertain the level of knowledge about cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University;
2. assess the attitudinal disposition of undergraduate students of Babcock University towards cyber victimization;
3. assess the level of perceived seriousness toward cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University;
4. ascertain the level of susceptibility of undergraduate students of Babcock University towards cyber victimization;
5. ascertain the level of perceived benefits of taking recommended action to prevent cyberbullying;
6. determine the overall perception among undergraduate students of Babcock University toward cyber victimization;
7. ascertain the level of cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University;
8. determine the rate of cyber-activity among undergraduate students of Babcock University and
9. determine which of the independent variables in this study plays the most significant role in reducing cyber victimization.
1. What is the level of knowledge on cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University?
2. What is the attitudinal disposition of undergraduate students of Babcock University towards cyber victimization?
3. What is the level of perceived seriousness toward cyber victimization among undergraduate students toward cyber victimization?
4. What is the level of perceived susceptibility towards cyberbullying among undergraduate students of Babcock University?
5. What is the level of perceived benefits of taking recommended action to prevent cyberbullying among undergraduate students of Babcock University?
6. What is the overall perception towards cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University?
7. What is the level of cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University?
8. What is the rate of cyber-activity among undergraduate students of Babcock University?
9. Which of the independent variable plays the most significant role in reducing cyber victimization?
Studies carried out by Gámez-Guadix, Orue, Smith, & Calvete, 2013; Landstedt & Persson, 2014; Olenik-Shemesh, Heiman, & Eden, 2012 shows that victims of cyber victimization are susceptible to an assortment of psychosocial adjustment difficulties, including depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Also, from the study carried out by Schneider, Donnell, Stueve & Coulter, 2012; it was revealed that cyber bullying victims are four times likely to have depressive symptoms and are also five times likely to attempt committing suicide. Depression puts these youths at risk of committing suicide. Other resultant effects which stems out from cyber victimization can be all- encompassing damaging to the youth’s performance both academically and also in their interpersonal relationship as the causal effects of cyber victimization can produce negative behavioural choices. Therefore, it can be said that in-school youths that experience cyber victimization are at the risk of experiencing depression which can lead them to committing suicide. Also deviant and delinquent behaviours can develop which will have a negative playback on their lives.
Cyber victimization as an emerging area of public health is so far underexplored in Nigeria and Africa as whole. This poses a great danger with a devastating health outcome especially with the growth in digital technology and a large population of individuals involved. Hence it is a serious public health concern.
There are limited studies in the literature conducted in Nigeria and Africa regarding cyber activities and victimization. For the studies reported (Okorie, 2014; Oyewusi & Orolade, 2014), necessary parameters were not scientifically developed and conceptualized the phenomenon. Therefore, this study was theoretically and conceptually grounded in the phenomenon. This model will enable the salient features associated with knowledge, attitude and perception of cyber victimization to be explored critically.
This study makes its contribution to the body of knowledge in characterizing features of the design and conceptual grounding that distinguishes it from previous studies. By adopting behaviour theory described in the Health Belief Model, this has provided a better understanding of underlying factors that can predispose these youths to being cyber victimized and how these factors are interrelated. This study provides an opportunity for developing theory grounded and proactive measures
The study hypothesizes that;
H1: Respondents educational level significantly affects their knowledge on cyber victimization.
H2: There exists a significant relationship between knowledge and cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University.
H3: There exists a significant relationship between attitude and cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University
H4: There exists a significant relationship between perceived seriousness of cyberbullying and cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University
H5: There exists a significant relationship between cyber-activity and cyber victimization among undergraduate students of Babcock University
H6: There exists a significant difference in the level of perception across genders among undergraduate students of Babcock university students towards cyber victimization.
1.7 Operational definition of terms
Cyber victimization: Cyber victimization refers to the usage of electronic media with the intent of causing harm, humiliation, suffering, fear and despair for the individual who is the target of aggression.
Cyber activity: The frequency of online presence of an individual.
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