All the (cyber) world’s a stage: Framing cyberbullying as a performance

Special issue: Children in cyberspace: Opportunities, risks and safety

This paper explores the ways in which the use of technology presents girls with new and alternative ways to participate in and experience bullying. The focus is particularly on how girls experience and participate in ‘cyberbullying’ via Instant Messenger (IM) programmes and social networking sites (SNS). A mixed method approach was employed with girls aged 12–15 years old in Northern Ireland which captured 494 questionnaire responses and eight online interviews conducted using instant messenger.

Findings show that girls of this age group are high IM and SNS users. These forms of communication may be used to impersonate others, convey hurtful or malicious comments or share private or embarrassing information with online audiences. The data indicates that these online forms of bullying may be facilitated within friendship groups in an offline context in order for them to have access to such information and access to the appropriate audience. Furthermore, the research indicates that older girls experience and participate in cyberbullying more than younger girls.

This article positions these findings within the conceptual framework of Goffman’s understanding of social interactions as a performance and proposes a model which applies this framework of performance to the phenomenon of cyberbullying.

cyberbullying; instant messenger; social networking sites; bullying as performance
Author biographies

Donna Kernaghan

Author photo Dr. Donna Kernaghan is a Researcher for the National Children’s Bureau in Northern Ireland. Her doctoral research (Queen’s University, Belfast, 2011) investigated friendship and bullying amongst teenage girls with particular focus on cyberbullying. Donna is also particularly interested in developing innovative approaches to engage young people in research which incorporates online spaces. Her current research focuses on: (i) young people’s access to ICT at home and the impact this may have on their educational attainment and; (ii) barriers faced by young people who may be at risk of not being in education, employment or training (NEETs) after compulsory schooling.

Jannette Elwood

Author photo Jannette Elwood is Professor of Education and Director of the Doctoral Research Centre in the School of Education at Queen’s University Belfast. She has worked in educational research, teaching and policy in a variety of organisations. Her main research interests are in the social constructions and consequences of tests, examinations and assessment practices. Recent publications include: Elwood J and Lundy L (2010) Revisioning assessment through a children's rights approach: implications for policy, process and practice, Research Papers in Education, 25: 3, 335-353 and Elwood J (2012) Qualifications, examinations and assessment: views and perspectives of students in the 14-19 phase on policy and practice, Cambridge Journal of Education, 42: 4, 497-512.

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