Criminological Aspects of Cyberbullying


Cyberbullying is becoming an urgent problem for many people worldwide. However, the number of studies and interventions on this topic remains unsatisfactory (Zhu et al., 2021). Thus, the central theme of this study is the need for a detailed investigation of cyberbullying and measures to prevent it. This study focuses on the criminological aspect of the topic, considering people involved in this activity criminals. Such an association is made possible by the connection between usual bullying and cyberbullying, expressed in the concept of abuse (Ansary, 2020). The importance of this study lies in the rate at which this phenomenon is spreading, as the number of cyberbullying cases has increased in recent years (Zhu et al., 2021). Since any person connected with the modern information space can become a victim of this crime, the results of this work can be potentially critical for the security and well-being of society.

Significance and Purpose

The importance of this topic lies in the factors with which it is closely related. First of all, cyberbullying as a phenomenon would not be possible without modern technologies. The created information network that connects people worldwide is the source of many dangers. In this context, the problem is that the spread of this network has increased significantly. Statistics show that between 2013 and 2016, the percentage of teenagers owning cell phones almost doubled (Englander, 2019). Such an active increase in the number of users entails increased cyberbullying victimization. Given the current development patterns, the number of potential victims can only increase shortly.

Such prospects form an urgent need for research and interventions. However, the second issue of concern is the lack of knowledge of the cyberbullying phenomenon and the lack of effective countermeasures (Zhu et al., 2021). Despite the international scale of the problem, there is no clear consensus in the scientific community on many issues (Ansary, 2020). Many elements of cyberbullying remain unexplored, such as the criminological perspective, which is practically untouched by researchers (Zhang et al., 2021). Consequently, there are preconditions for the situation to worsen and no sufficiently effective measures to prevent the escalation. Therefore, this study aims to analyze the causes of cyberbullying in an international context from a criminology perspective since the problem is large-scale and includes elements of a crime. Analyzing the reasons from this position will allow to investigate existing countermeasures more effectively and explore possible methods to prevent such situations.


The fact that the spread of cyberbullying is taking on rampant proportions that the current few measures cannot cope with is confirmed by background statistics provided by various sources. The situation can take a particularly critical form in developed countries where the level of technology is high, such as the United States. As the statistics portal Statista demonstrates, more than 40 percent of adult Internet users in the United States have been victims of cyberbullying at least once (Johnson, 2021). However, not only developed countries suffer from this problem since this problem is international, which allows criminals to exert psychological pressure almost constantly. Statistics from the technology research website Comparitech show that many parents worldwide believe their children are victims of online bullying (Cook, 2022). Such statements often come from India, Brazil, and the United States — countries with very different living standards, which further confirms the global nature of the problem.

It is also important to note that there is no age limit for this problem, and both adults and children can be bullied. According to the Pew Research Center, up to 59 percent of American teenagers have experienced cyberbullying at least once (Anderson, 2018). This value is not only higher than similar statistics for adults but also steadily increasing. As the Cyberbullying Research Center report shows, between 2007 and 2019, the rate of cyberbullying almost doubled (Patchin, 2019). As the spread of technology continues unabated and communications become more accessible, these statistics can only be expected to increase, making the issue of cyberbullying even more relevant.


From a theoretical perspective, cyberbullying is not much different from the usual common abuse types. Cyberbullying is a variant of conventional bullying with its own characteristics associated with technology. However, this phenomenon is a manifestation of aggressive behavior through psychological pressure. A similar formulation can be applied to common bullying, often considered from the criminology perspective. Therefore, there are grounds for forming an evidence-based theory of the study of cyberbullying based on existing similar cases.

Thus, a potential approach to explaining the causes of cyberbullying lies in forming an accessible environment for aggression in the information field. Most researchers studying this phenomenon apply standard models used in the abuse analysis, for example, the general aggression model (Ansary, 2020). However, this approach does not address the information space features. From my perspective, it is also necessary to consider the anonymity factor and the specifics of the formation of a balance of power, which is reflected in the approach of Barlett and Gentile (Ansary, 2020). Due to the lack of tight control, it is much easier to remain anonymous and go unpunished on the Internet than in the real world.

Consequently, such an environment encourages people with psychological and contextual predispositions to take advantage of these opportunities to achieve their goals. Their list may include both getting pleasure from dominating another person and achieving practical benefits through blackmail. In addition, there are practically no tools to prevent such behavior within the information network. Therefore, such a theoretical approach also explains the need to develop potential countermeasures.

Literature Review

This research proposal used six different peer-reviewed research articles to form arguments and provide data. The work of Ansary (2020) is devoted to the topic of cyberbullying from a theoretical and conceptual perspective. The author uses the developmental psychopathology framework, considering cyberbullying as an intersection of human development and clinical psychology. The central issue of this study is the collection of critical information regarding the aspects of cyberbullying.

In addition, prevention measures are being considered to stimulate further work. Ansary (2020) uses a literary analysis of relevant information as a methodology. The consistent study allowed the author to highlight the complete definition of cyberbullying, consider the positive and negative aspects of various theories, and study the current statistics. The work shows that the amount of literature on cyberbullying has increased significantly in the last ten years, but the number of prevention measures remains unsatisfactory. In addition, an important limitation is the lack of scientific consensus, which makes academic analysis difficult (Ansary, 2020). Therefore, it is necessary to fill in the gaps in the literature and create cyberbullying countermeasures on its basis. The connection of this study with the research proposal lies in the presented conceptual framework, which allows for more detailed research and emphasizes the need for criminological research.

The central theme of Barlett et al.’s research is the study of cyberbullying through general strain theory, which is the main conceptual framework. In this study, the authors establish a connection between various social events and cyberbullying (Barlett et al., 2021). The main research question is the analysis of links between these crimes and COVID-19. Accordingly, the central hypothesis is the existence of a positive correlation between these two phenomena. To confirm it, the researchers conducted two studies based on specially designed questionnaires and path modeling.

The work carried out by the article’s authors revealed a positive correlation between the variables. As experiments have shown, the more experiences a person had of interacting with COVID-19, the more often acts of cyber abuse were observed (Barlett et al., 2021). Although the authors emphasize that their work suffers from several limitations, such as data available from only one point in time, valuable conclusions can be drawn from this study. Firstly, general strain theory makes it possible to predict cyberattacks based on stress data. Secondly, the revealed correlations make it possible to create a foundation for preventive measures. Within the framework of this research proposal, these implications are significant since they demonstrate the possibility of effective countermeasures through the analysis of the criminological situation.

Englander’s work focuses on pediatrics and the impact of cyberbullying on children. The author analyzes this phenomenon from the perspective of children’s access to technology (Englander, 2019). This paper briefly compiles the available information on child cyberbullying, so the main research question is to examine the prevalence of this phenomenon and children’s access to technology. To explore this situation in detail, the author conducts a literary analysis of research papers (Englander, 2019). This statistical information concerns the prevalence of Internet abuse and the percentage of children accessing the information field.

As the study shows, information regarding cyberbullying in childhood is somewhat mixed and does not allow drawing accurate conclusions. However, this allows concluding that this phenomenon requires more detailed attention. In addition, the analysis of statistics has shown that in recent years the number of children and adolescents with access to technology has increased significantly (Englander, 2019). The limitations of this work are the lack of a clear consensus in the scientific field and, as a result, the inability to compile sources accurately. However, this only highlights the need for further research and analysis of the technology prevalence as a critical factor linking this paper to this research proposal.

The main research topic of Gaffney et al. is cyberbullying intervention and prevention programs. The authors questioned currently existing developments and methods in this area are sufficiently compelling (Gaffney et al., 2019). They note that despite the objective need for research in this area, they had found only a few such works. Gaffney et al. use a systematic review and meta-analysis of the existing literature as the primary method to answer the question posed.

The main result of the analysis of sources was a partial confirmation of the effectiveness of existing methods. According to the investigation, current programs can reduce the perpetration by 10-15 percent and the victimization by 14 percent (Gaffney et al., 2019). However, the study’s limitations are the considerable gaps in the literature, especially when compared to studies of conventional school bullying. Secondly, most works focus only on children, leaving the adult population without an assessment (Gaffney et al., 2019). Speaking about these limitations, the authors emphasize that these areas should be an additional focus in future research, which makes this article helpful for this research proposal (Gaffney et al., 2019). This work highlights the possible effectiveness of measures to prevent cyberbullying and the need for more detailed studies to fill gaps in the literature, making the research proposal even more relevant.

An article by Zhu et al. focuses on cyberbullying in general, exploring this issue from several angles at once. The main research question is to analyze the global perspective of the phenomenon, focusing on frequency, risk and protective factors (Zhu et al., 2021). The authors strived to fill in the previously emphasized gaps in the literature. They conducted a systematic review of 63 sources obtained by searching eight academic databases to accomplish this task.

The results obtained varied significantly but showed a high prevalence of the problem. The most common risk factors were personal factors such as age and gender and situational factors such as relationships and geographic location (Zhu et al., 2021). Simultaneously, the most influential factors for protection against cyberbullying were empathy and emotional support. Finally, a critical finding is an increase in the frequency of cyberbullying in the last five years. The authors highlight the insufficient number of national representative studies and the focus only on victimization and perpetration as the main limitations (Zhu et al., 2021). The value of this work in connection with the research proposal lies in the detailed study from an international perspective, demonstrating the prevalence of cyberbullying as a problem. In addition, the authors emphasize the need for cooperation in research to implement potentially effective strategies, which necessitates the need for criminological research.

The study by Chan et al. explores cyberbullying on social networking sites (SNS). In this work, the concept of cyberbullying is considered as SNS bullying through crime opportunity theory, which establishes that social and technological changes produce new opportunities for crime (Chan et al., 2019). The authors raise two main research questions: what are the key factors driving SNS bullying, and how does the availability of social networks affect the ability to evaluate them in this context (Chan et al., 2019). In this regard, Chen et al. (2019) put forward seven hypotheses establishing factors influencing SNS bullying, determining the availability of suitable targets for bullying, and specifying the absence of capable guardianship. Confirmation of these hypotheses is sought by introducing a meta-framework, verified through an anonymous longitudinal survey, the participants of which are Facebook users.

As the results show, the strategy for assessing environmental conditions proposed by the authors makes it possible to successfully predict SNS bullying. Although the current study has several limitations, it sets the stage for further research (Chen et al., 2019). The authors used only one Internet platform, and the sample of users was limited to American adults. Secondly, the survey design used does not exclude the possibility of a response bias. Nevertheless, the model created by the authors can serve as a basis for further research. Therefore, within the research proposal framework, this work is helpful for its innovative perspective and demonstrative application of criminological theory.


It is proposed to use survey research as a methodology for a potential study. This research proposal stands out for its international perspective and the need to analyze the theoretical and practical methods of combating cyberbullying. In this context, survey research has the most efficient and flexible means for obtaining information (“Criminology and criminal justice research,” n.d.). It is possible to receive data on both the victims of cyberbullying and the perpetrators using this method. All other methodologies are either unsuitable due to design features or challenging to implement due to gaps in the literature, such as meta-analysis (Gaffney et al., 2019). Therefore, this methodology is the most appropriate and allows the complete answer to the crucial questions.

Potential Research Question

This research proposal focuses on several critical components of the cyberbullying problem. First of all, the proposed work should identify the causes of cyberbullying, considering this phenomenon from a criminological perspective. Secondly, since cyberbullying has no borders and is a global problem, the factors leading to cyberbullying need to be viewed from an international perspective. Thirdly, it is necessary to study existing countermeasures and identify theoretical strategies and ways to implement them effectively. Thus, combining these components delivers the following research question: what are the causes of cyberbullying as a crime from an international perspective, and what are the practical and theoretical ways to combat this phenomenon?


This research proposal is focused on the problem of cyberbullying, which has become increasingly relevant in recent years. Its significance is determined by the rate of spread of both the phenomenon itself and the technologies that create the environment for it. In addition, as a study of the literature and statistical sources showed, there is a minimal amount of literature on this topic, especially those that illuminate the criminological perspective. As a result, it is proposed to conduct survey research that answers the question about the causes of cyberbullying in an international format and explores practical and theoretical countermeasures. The results of this study will fill in the existing gaps in the literature regarding the criminological perspective of this phenomenon. In addition, with enough data, research findings can lead to effective prevention and intervention measures that improve society.


Anderson, M. (2018). A majority of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying. Pew Research Center. Web.

Ansary, N. S. (2020). Cyberbullying: Concepts, theories, and correlates informing evidence-based best practices for prevention. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 50, 101343. Web.

Barlett, C. P., Rinker, A., & Roth, B. (2021). Cyberbullying perpetration in the COVID-19 era: An application of general strain theory. The Journal of Social Psychology, 161(4), 466-476. Web.

Chan, T. K., Cheung, C. M., & Wong, R. Y. (2019). Cyberbullying on social networking sites: the crime opportunity and affordance perspectives. Journal of Management Information Systems, 36(2), 574-609. Web.

Cook, S. (2022). Cyberbullying facts and statistics for 2018 – 2022. Comparitech. Web.

Criminology and criminal justice research: Methods. (n.d.). Law Library – American Law and Legal Information. Web.

Englander, E. (2019). Childhood access to technology and cyberbullying. Journal of Pediatrics and Pediatric Medicine, 3(2).

Gaffney, H., Farrington, D. P., Espelage, D. L., & Ttofi, M. M. (2019). Are cyberbullying intervention and prevention programs effective? A systematic and meta-analytical review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 45, 134-153. Web.

Johnson, J. (2021). Cyber bullying – statistics & facts. Statista. Web.

Patchin, J. W. (2019). Summary of our cyberbullying research (2007-2019). Cyberbullying Research Center. Web.

Zhu, C., Huang, S., Evans, R., & Zhang, W. (2021). Cyberbullying among adolescents and children: a comprehensive review of the global situation, risk factors, and preventive measures. Frontiers in Public Health, 167. Web.

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