Online social networking behaviours, cyber bullying, mental health and behavioural functioning in Australian students
Nova Science Publishers
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Law and Justice/Sellenger Centre for Research in Law, Justice and Social Change
The present study comprised 599 West Australian students (48.4% male), aged between 12 and 16 years (M = 13.98 years, SD = 0.88) who participated in a survey relating to technology use, cyber-safety, bullying and cyber-bullying, mental health and behavioural functioning. Students' Social Networking Site (SNS) use was widespread with 61.9% of students using them 6 to 7 days a week. Most of this use occurred on the weekend with 80.2% of students using SNS for one or more hours on an average day on the weekend compared to 58.5% on an average day before or after school and 12.8% on an average day at school. A large proportion (69.8%) of students had 200 or more online friends (49.1% had 300 or more) and 92.0% reported knowing all or nearly all of them in person (35.7% knowing all). Students who were online (specifically on their SNS) for more time (weekday and weekend) and were younger were more likely to be cyber-bullied. With regard to mental health and behavioural functioning, female students experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety, and more behavioural problems than male students. Students who reported using more SNS and being online for longer over the weekend also experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety, and more behavioural problems. Finally, students who reported being online for longer at school and knowing fewer of their SNS friends in person experienced more behavioural problems. The results of this study offer important insights into SNS use and behaviours, as well as their impact on cyber-victimisation. They also have significant implications for the way in which young people interact with peers via SNS, for the cyber-bullying behaviours students might be exposed to, and for the provision of appropriate support and intervention strategies necessary to minimise mental health and behavioural problems.