Cyberbullying of Children: The role of parental response


  • Val Hooper Victoria University of Wellington



cyberbullying, children and cyberbullying, parental responses, cyberbullying guidelines, parent/child pair interviews


Cyberbullying of children has been studied in many disciplines, e.g. psychology, education, criminology, information systems. However, much of the work consists of guidelines and only about half is empirical. Plus, the empirical research seldom has a sound, well-formulated theoretical underpinning. Although guidelines generally indicate what parents should do to prevent cyberbullying of their children, there is a paucity of research on how parents actually respond and what effect this has on their children. With all the best intentions in the world, very often parents may be responding inappropriately, thereby extending the bullying cycle and exacerbating the harm of the cyberbullying. The purpose of this qualitative research was exploratory and was to determine how parents respond to their children being cyberbullied. The research captured the interview responses of ten pairs of child/parent combinations, identified by means of purposive sampling. In particular, the responses of the parent to a cyberbullying incident involving their child were explored. The responses of each pair were compared to ascertain the role of the parental response, and then a more holistic thematic analysis was conducted of all the pairs of responses. Some of the findings indicate confusion about what exactly cyberbullying is; who believed that they/their children had experienced cyberbullying; what the experience had been; prior parental guidance of the children; who the children had told when they experienced cyberbullying; which parents had been told (if they were told) and why; how parents believed they had responded and how their children perceived them to have responded; the children’s response to their parents’ response; and the result of the cyberbullying incident discussed. This research contributes to the theoretical development of cyberbullying by building on a combination of self-discrepancy theory, social cognitive theory and parental mediation theory. In practical terms, the research will shine a light on an overlooked area of cyberbullying research. The findings will help guide parents, schools and counselors on how best to involve parents in the child's response to cyberbullying.