Date of Award


Degree Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Public Health


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Stacey Waters

Second Advisor

Dr Laura Thomas

Third Advisor

Professor Donna Cross


Non-cyber bullying is a familiar, intricate and pervasive problem among school-aged youth. However, it was not until the 1970’s that attempts were made to systematically define and research the phenomenon (Olweus, 1978; Olweus, Limber, & Mihalic, 1999). Since this time, non-cyber bullying has been thrust on the international public health agenda with many researchers attempting to define and investigate the prevalence of the behaviour (Olweus, 1991; Rigby & Slee, 1991). Significant prevalence estimates contributed to the consequent investigation of individual behavioural attributes that help explain the phenomenon. However, much of this research neglected the social and environmental influences related to non-cyber bullying behaviour. Further, forming a unified definition to conceptualise the behaviour has proven a difficult task due to variances in criteria and semantics. Consolidating the classification and attributes of the non-cyber bullying definition and ensuring it is understood by all (i.e. parents, teachers, students and the wider community) becomes as essential component in accurately interpreting the incidence and prevalence of the behaviour (Vaillancourt, McDougall, Hymel, Krygsman, Millar, Stiver et al., 2008).

The emergence of digital communication technologies, including mobile phones and the Internet, provide a new medium from which students can bully others. Known as cyber bullying, this type of bullying is described as an electronic form of traditional bullying behaviour (Kowalski, Limber, & Agaston, 2008) rather than a new type (Anderson & Strum, 2007). The definition and semantic ambiguities present in the non-cyber bullying definition are further compounded by the complexities present in the cyber environment, as the behaviour is no longer bound to physical space and time. Further, research-to-date has focused largely on the extent and nature of cyber bullying and the general characteristics of those who engage in it, with little emphasis being placed on the mechanisms and processes for preventing and dealing with it.

This thesis presents qualitative data collected by the Environment of Bullying Study (EBS) - a sub-study of the Cyber Bullying Prevention Project (CBPP), to discover what it is about the cyber and non-cyber environments that impacts upon the prevalence, types, harms and possible responses to bullying. The CBPP was a two-year formative study into cyber bullying involving Year 4, 6 and 10 students from six schools throughout Western Australia.