School Staff's Perceptions and Attitudes towards Cyberbullying
Parallel with the spread of technology use, cyberbullying has become a serious problem in schools, particularly those in developed countries where most young people have ready access to the Internet and mobile phones. Cyberbullying can cause significant emotional harm, disrupt social development, and can be associated with negative student outcomes. As schools must provide students with a safe learning environment, they are challenged with ways to address the phenomenon of cyberbullying. To minimize the negative effects of cyberbullying, and to assist school staff to understand and address this issue, it is necessary to examine the views of school staff on cyberbullying. Positioned within the framework of Social-Ecological Theory, this study explored teachers’ and senior managers’ perceptions and attitudes towards cyberbullying. Data were collected using an anonymous online self-report questionnaire on cyberbullying. One hundred and twelve senior managers and ninety eight teachers, currently working in New Zealand schools, participated in the study. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted to evaluate whether groups of items of the questionnaire assessed distinct attitudinal constructs. Results from the exploratory factor analysis indicated that attitudes towards cyberbullying was a multi-dimensional construct composed by three factors (i.e., ‘Concern’, ‘Empathy’ and ‘Responsibility’). The results also showed that most school staff understood what behaviours constitute cyberbullying. However, a significant proportion of school staff were unlikely to identify social exclusion as being a component of cyberbullying. School staff perceived cyberbullying as conducted mainly by girls and by students across all age groups. In addition, school staff were concerned about cyberbullying, they were empathetic towards cybervictims and they believed that cyberbullies could be helped. However, school staff, especially senior managers, were unlikely to perceive cyberbullying as a problem in their schools and likely to report low frequencies of cyberbullying. Moreover, school staff felt only moderately responsible for preventing cyberbullying as it commonly occurs outside the school. Theoretical and applied implications, for the different levels of the Social-Ecological Theory that affect cyberbullying behaviours, are discussed.