The Effects Of Cyberbullying Amongst Young Adults

Introduction and background to the study

The researcher is an educator at one of the TVET Colleges in the Western Cape. More recently has developed a particular interest in cyberbullying amongst young adults in the current TVET College. While technology has improved information communication amongst young adults, the young people of today use the internet as a platform for learning, investigation as well as social engagement. The most common mode of device used daily by young adults on the mobile phone.

According to states provided by South Africa's Census report, South Africa's population was estimated at 57.73 million as of 1 July 2018 and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) report found that South Africa's smartphone usage was at 81.72%. The phenomenal usage of mobile phones and the increase of access to the various social media platforms have many positive as well as negative effects.

A negative effect is using the technology platform as a way to bully peers. 'Cyberbullying' refers to the intention of hurting someone either using mobile phones, computers and on these platforms applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Emails (Franks, 2015:14).

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According to Farhangpour, Maluleke and Mutshaeni, 2019:925) the increase of mobile technology by young adults in TVET Colleges has increased the potential of cyberbullying as a global aspect.

Cyberbullying does not suddenly and strangely appear among young adults, it starts at home. Family and friends are the first encounters with a child in their early years during childhood, it has become evident that cyberbullying stems from children's experiences where they have observed family violence, corporal punishment and the use of verbal and physical hostility to control others.

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Children's direct observation influence how they intermingle with others.

Alternatively, when young children are brought up in less violent homes and surrounded with love and care to impact their social skills, it decreases the chance of bullying occurring during the childhood stages (Nweke, Dike & Enike, 2019:213). There is a vast similarity between cyberbullying and traditional bullying behaviours instead, electronic media is used in this regard. However, according to Franks (2015:3) there are characteristics that separate cyberbullying to from traditional bullying. On social media platforms where cyberbullying is able to remain unidentified in a form of impersonation where they are able to create fake profiles to hide identify (Garc?a, Puerta, G?mez, Santos and Bringas, 2015:54). Thus increases the volume of cyberbullying taking place as well as escalating. Therefore, the physical distance between the cyberbully and the victim increases the maliciousness. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of cyberbullying amongst young adults in the Western Cape. The effects of these findings will be further discussed.


Due to the national and international percentage of cyberbullying it caught the eye of the researcher on how such a mind-set can get out of hand, but due to the researchers believe a rope has a beginning and an end. In addition to that, the researcher was also a victim of cyberbullying as a young adult in secondary school. The researcher was emotionally abused, with that being said negative effects such as depression, social anxiety and fear has taken an unexpected turn on the researchers life. The secondary school the researcher has attending offered counselling sessions which assisted in various aspects, however the current TVET College where the researcher is based offers counselling yet not as effective and always available. Thus the current topic selected has captivated and motivated the researcher to investigate how TVET Colleges taken initiative to implement a variety of solutions to decrease the repeated problem.


Cyberbullying is a major concern in the Western Cape. Students experience negative effects such as anger, depression, isolation as well as humiliation. This problem stems from the history in the household environment. Consequently these negative effects could lead to suicide. During the literature review, the researcher discovered several articles based on cyberbullying in the TVET College setup. This suggests that there is a need for further research (Franks, 2015:14, Farhangpour, et al., 2019:925., Gershoff, 2017:18). The following question was posed for the research project: What are the effects of Cyber Bullying amongst young adults in a TVET College in the Western Cape?


- What are the effects of Cyber Bullying amongst young adults in a TVET College in the Western Cape?


- To investigate the effects of Cyber Bullying amongst young adults in a TVET College in the Western Cape.


This section emphasis cyberbullying as a global aspect from a first world country then narrowing it down to the Western Cape.



Cyberbullying also known as online bullying, it occurs when an individual or group uses the internet to repeatedly harass or harm another person such as teasing, taunting, posting of embarrassing videos or images of someone without the consent of the target.

Social Media

A public platform that allows users around the world to communicate with each other in ways of sharing messages, images and videos with the ability to edit and comment on various information posted.


Includes an individual or group of people of all ages, races and backgrounds specifically targeted in a negative manner. Cyberbullying is not confined to certain TVET Colleges, ages or levels. Across the spectrum students face cyberbullying first and second hand - be it by bearing witness, being the victim or the bully him or herself. According to Hynel and Swearer (2015), there are various forms in which the victims can experience cyberbullying. Either be, psychologically or emotionally. Young adults are seen as potential victims of cyberbullying, since at that specific stage have vast access to social platforms, and therefore their behaviour spirals out of control. They tend to act out of feeling guilty, they struggle to concentrate, their grades drop, their desire of going to college is reduced and they have a lack of confidence. Also, the effects can influence the student's success. For example, should the student suffer from anxiety due to fear, if the learner does not attend college, it can affect their academic performance (Mitchell, 2017). Not only affect their academic progress but at home the relationship with parents as they waver to whinge to parents or authorities and feel social imitation.

While looking at the effects of cyberbullying the foundation of it starts during childhood stages. The early stages of a child is vital in terms of social interaction and by baring witness of violence from family, media or other children impact the mind-set of a young child (Smit, 2015). Violent behaviour experienced by family and friends and witnessed by a young child initiates the aggression behaviours and thoughts. The behaviour develops when entering the preschool stages, in the classroom aggression takes place to defend their possession such as stationary. Eventually escalates in secondary school bully related behaviours to intimidate peers around them. With the success of bullying a peer it continues to escalate and when entering the TVET sector with the benefit platform of social media, bullying took a toll into bullying peers, family or friends online. However, the internet only creates the platform for the cyberbully to bully without physical contact (Frank, 2015).

With the fourth industrial revolution cyberbullying is identified as one of the most profound forms of bullying in TVET Colleges (Ndibalema, 2013). By defining bullying, certain key elements are considered and need to be empathized on, namely intention, repeat, and defense. In addition to this, cyberbullying consists of three important elements. If a learner is a victim of cyberbullying, this would lead to unexpected aggressive behaviour which results in negative actions. With that being said, cyberbullying also involves a repeated behavioural sequence over some time.

Cyberbullying is parallel to traditional bullying, in the same way, the same effects such as abusive behaviors and emotional effects are experienced by an individual (Choi and Kruis, 2018:772-800. Therefore, the escalation of cyberbullying has increased. Even though certain TVET colleges have a policy that they adhere to and punish learners who are bullying, there aren't many techniques in place to provide ideas on how to address the effects of learners being cyberbullied.

Cyberbullying creates an uneven balance of power whereby victims experience weakness either psychologically or emotionally (Tustin, Zulu, Basson, 2014). In addition to the statement, Tustin et al (2014), describes that learners can be affected by cyberbullying in various forms namely: receiving premeditated transformation of character, an individual or group of people that transfer images or videos online to demean an individual's character in the same way when a person receives an unwanted harmful message via social media platforms such as WhatsApp, facebook direct messaging or emails. Thus adds up to a great deal of humiliation (Evans & Smokowski, 2016).

Cyberbullying in the USA

Victims can suffer long term effects of cyberbullying which include the possibility of suicide, low self-esteem or being afraid of attending college. As TVET Colleges identify cyberbullying as an issue, the actual concern is to eradicate the students' behaviors. A variety of Colleges in the United States has made effort by deciding to implement a program for the college to reduce the behaviours of the victims. Although certain colleges found it challenging to determine a program that is suitable for both the learners and staff, there is, however, an appropriate program used by a maximum amount of colleges within different regions. It is called the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Mitchell, 2017). According to Garandeua and Salmivalli (2016), learners are socially and psychologically affected by cyberbullying. Within the classroom environment, the effects have not been moderated. However, it has been stated that a different program has been executed, named the KiVa program. This entails an anti-cyberbullying involvement whereby the effects of the victims are being seen within the classroom environment.

Cyberbullying in Tanzania

The growth of cyberbullying in African colleges has become arenas for violence and increasing rapidly. Cyberbullying has become a norm in most TVET Colleges. One of the colleges in Tanzania refers to cyberbullying normally initiated by both male and female pupils (Ndibalema, 2013). However, the researcher begs to differ. According to Boyes, Bowes, Cluver, Ward, and Badcock (2014:4), Males are predominantly the initiators of cyberbullying. In addition to that, males find themselves in a position of seeking approval from their peers which often occurs in TVET Colleges. After a period, cyberbullying becomes expected to be reduced once the completion of the college career. According to Ndibalema (2013) starting TVET College as well as entering puberty could be seen as a problematic era for young adults. This is referred to as the two major transition periods. Additionally, there are however gender differences in the way the outcomes are based (Boyes et al, 2014). Women are prone to suffer the symptoms internally such as fretfulness (Gruber and Fineran, 2015), as for Men are prone to suffer the symptoms externally such as using their physical abilities (Gruber and Fineran, 2015), to fight with their fist.

Cyberbullying in South Africa

There are the positive and negative effects of cyberbullying. According to Mfidi (2015) cyberbullying can prepare oneself for life by firming up a young adult. However, due to the negative effects of cyberbullying Ncontsa and Shumba (2013), found that learners who may have witnessed or found themselves in situations where they have been cyberbullied are likely to become depressed and thus affects their ability to acquire knowledge negatively. Learners experience loss of concentration during class time or during study time, with this, it reduces academic performance. At the same time, environmental influences play an extreme role in these negative and positive effects (Ndibalema, 2013). The Campus Manager and Lecturer's reactions determine the extent to which cyberbullying will manifest in the college environment. South Africa's National statute stems from the constitutional charter with regard to as we know "traditional bullying" and safety whilst in the educational settings. According to Lass & Boezaart (2014:2685) two Acts are identified, namely South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 which also correlates for TVET Colleges then the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011. South African Schools Act (SASA) states that professional bodies at the education institution must implement a code of conduct. Firstly the code of conduct establishes rules and regulations for the standard of behaviour and actions presented by the students. Secondly, it is hoped to escalate discipline and mutual respect among each other in the TVET sector. Thirdly, the aims is to promote a positive behaviour reach and specifies how misbehaviour will be dealt with in a safe structured educational setting. Since the USA has a particular programme in place known as the "Olweus Bullying Prevention Program stimulates", South African's educational institutions rely on the Acts that are set out for them by the government instead on implementation of programmes similar to international context.

Cyberbullying in Western Cape

In Tanzania Boyes et al, (2014:4) elaborate how males are predominantly the initiators of cyberbullying. It follows that in the Western Cape young boys are the perpetrators on the social media sites (Franks, 2015:14) conducting the cyberbullying amongst their peers. Their victims are selected at the TVET College during educational timeframes or even during lunch breaks. Recently in the Western Cape women's month was celebrated in the month of October and during this celebration period young girls were raped for various reasons. As a result, images of one of the victims were dispatched on social media and negative comments were thrown at the images which effected in humiliation. In the same way, the process of cyberbullying is taking place and the bystanders just tend to scroll on. Cyberbullying occurs in a first world country such as USA following with the same challenge in a country such as Tanzania which is below the comparison. In South Africa; Western Cape the challenges remain the same and the escalation thereof.

Within Western Cape schools, there are ways in which the school itself seeks methods to determine how victims' can overcome their fear of being cyberbullied. Educators or school management should include the victims' in educational games. Chetty (2015) viewed another way to reduce the effects could be by advising learners to reframe from social media and including them in a support group consisting of other victims. Educators can find support groups for the victims. According to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) it states that there is an average with a percentage of 44%, which outlines the biggest percentage of cyberbullying incidents that occur in South African TVET Colleges. One of the major causes of cyberbullying refers to the lack of attention and communication (Gershoff, 2017:18). The only way for some students to communicate is to act out in a form of violence and perceive that cyberbullying would be a form of nonphysical violence, as it is a way for perpetrators to feel they can be heard and seen. Cyberbullying is a form of dominance, where it is an act of power and where older students target younger students by draining them emotionally.

Theoretical framework

The theory selected for the theoretical framework is Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory. According to Killam and White (2017:198), with this theory, it states that a child progresses within a multifaceted system of relationships that are affected by the immediate environment. In this case, the environment has a constant change. Thus has a direct impact and affects the way a child experiences relationships and the current environment. Four systems are identified namely, the microsystem which consists of interaction forms of an individual in the setting of which him/her is directly involved such as the College environment or at home. The mesosystem associates with the microsystem. When we refer to the ecosystem it has no direct connection with the individual itself however, it still holds the possibility of affecting the individual. The macrosystem contains the laws and policies and mainly cultural norms. Lastly, the chronosystem points out that over time all systems have the possibility of changing.

While technology is improving and changing daily it can be regarded as a system on its own. Bronfenbrenner identifies that each system affects one another. Therefore with the fourth industrial revolution, there is no way of removing technology from an individual as it has become part of everyday life. The use of the internet whether progressive or destructive affects a young adult's life. The researcher would like to investigate the effects of Cyber Bullying amongst young adults in a TVET College in the Western Cape. Bronfenbrenner's theory is therefore applicable to the research project.

Updated: Aug 12, 2021
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The Effects Of Cyberbullying Amongst Young Adults. (2019, Dec 16). Retrieved from

The Effects Of Cyberbullying Amongst Young Adults essay
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