Different sides of the same coin? Cyberbullying and the positive uses of social networking: examining perspectives form culturally diverse youth

Year: 2019

Author: Hayton, Sarah

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Technology is an integral component of Australian youths’ daily life and learning experiences. As social networking sites (SNS) increase in popularity, they provide both opportunities and challenges for youth, in particular cyberbullying. While existing literature on cyberbullying provides evidence about the general Australian population, little is known about how Australian youth from culturally diverse backgrounds experience the phenomenon of cyberbullying when using SNS.


This research investigated how Australian young people make sense of their lived experiences of cyberbullying when using SNS.

Research design

A phenomenology approached underpinned the research. Young people were recruited using purposive sampling. This resulted in three groups of participants from both metropolitan and regional areas respectively. The groups were: Indigenous, non-Indigenous Australian born, and CALD youth. All participants were active users of SNS and had lived experience of cyber bullying.

Data collection methods included: in-depth, semi structured interviews and digital diaries to explore the meanings participants attach to both their positive and negative experiences of using SNS. Data was analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.


Used responsibly, SNS have many beneficial effects. These include supporting young people’s social development and enhancing their education and supporting their well-being and social cohesion by connecting them to peers with similar interests at home and across the globe. The known negative behaviours on SNSs, such as cyberbullying, are common as this study shows. However, findings point to the assertion that the best way to counter cruel and negative behaviour is by combining cybersafety education in both school and the social settings where young people engage, such as SNSs. Parents in particular need to play their part and understand how their children engage with SNSs. To support this, education systems need to: provide students and parents with current, relevant and engaging educational resources that promote positive social behaviour; work with young people and parents to find a common understanding of cyberbullying; and promote possible localised solutions in conjunction with, not at, students. Study participants’ accounts reveal that effort needs to be made to use technology, such as SNSs, to enhance school-based cyberbullying programs and that new pedagogic spaces need to be created to ensure effective learning environments.

Implications for educational research

Study findings directly contribute to understanding the ways Australian youth make sense of their personal and social cyber-configured world, which in turn will assist in the development of education policy and practice in this area.