Increased time spent online in combination with current Internet trends such as social networking have led to new risks for online harassment. This problem has been given much attention for adolescents, but little has been done to describe the risks of online harassment experienced by young adults, even though they exhibit Internet behavior comparable to adolescents. This study is in part a replication of a previous study that surveyed online harassment within a college population (Finn 2004). Three questions are addressed: (1) What is the prevalence of online harassment among undergraduate students at a large southwestern university? (2) What is the relationship between the senders and receivers of harassing communications? (3) What are the demographic and computer use variables associated with increased risk of online harassment? A cross-sectional survey was administered to a convenience sample of 420 undergraduates, and the final response rate was 81.4 percent (n = 342). Survey questions included items from the Finn (2004) study, and new questions about technological trends. The Finn study reported a 16.2 percent rate of online harassment compared to 43.3 percent in the current study. Computer use variables were significant in predicting the likelihood of being harassed online, e.g. time on social networking sites, owning an Internet connected phone, and having ever sent a sext message; overall demographic variables were not significant. Online harassment is an issue deserving attention from researchers, lawmakers, parents, and university communities. Further research should investigate how students are coping with harassment, including reporting practices. Evidence-based interventions targeting this emerging issue are greatly needed.
- higher education
- online harassment
- young adults
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Library and Information Sciences