Bullying has been a problem affecting children for decades. The past two decades have seen an increased use of electronic devices such as computers and mobile phones for interpersonal communication. Electronic communication has virtually unlimited availability, accessibility and anonymity and these characteristics have enabled traditional face-to-face bullying to translate into the online world, resulting in what is known as cyberbullying. It has been found that adolescents spend as much time interacting by means of electronic media as they do in their face-to-face interactions, which increases their chances of being exposed to cyberbullying.
The goal of the research was to explore the experiences of adolescents regarding cyberbullying. A qualitative research approach was utilised in order to obtain the information on the experiences of the adolescents from their personal point of view. Data was collected by means of semi-structured interviews, guided by an interview schedule. Due to the hidden nature of cyberbullying, snowball sampling was utilised to select adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18, who attended a secondary school in Gauteng and who were victims of cyberbullying. Ten participants (eight females and two males) formed the sample for the study.
The findings of the study suggested that cyberbullying could have extremely negative emotional, social and educational consequences for the victim. These effects flowed over into other systems, affecting families, the peer group and the victim‟s school attendance. Friendships were often put to the test as many times the cyberbully came from within the victim‟s friendship circle. Cyberbullying can be regarded as a hidden phenomenon as many victims are too afraid to speak out about it. Furthermore, some victims who did report cyberbullying to parents or school authorities experienced that the seriousness of the cyberbullying was not appreciated by the adults.
Based on the findings of this study it is clear that cyberbullying should be regarded as a serious social issue and parents, educators, social workers and other professionals as well as adolescents themselves need to be aware of the dangers of cyberbullying. It is recommended that professionals, such as social workers and educators, need to develop intervention strategies for handling cyberbullying, including strategies to raise awareness of cyberbullying, strategies for reporting it, support for victims and perpetrators, and formulating school policies and procedures to deal with the phenomenon.