Online victimisation in adolescence: the role of parenting and early childhood experiences
Griffiths, Cara Luise
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Background: Online victimisation during adolescence is associated with adverse outcomes across multiple domains. However, previous research has demonstrated that some adolescents are at greater risk of experiencing online victimisation than others. Literature on traditional peer victimisation has highlighted the importance of children’s early experiences and the family context but it is unclear how these factors relate to online victimisation. The first study reviews the evidence for associations between the phenomenon of cyber-victimisation (CV) and parenting behaviours, whereas the second study investigates online victimisation which includes experiences of online harassment and unwanted contact of a sexual or offensive nature. Aim: A systematic review was conducted to determine whether positive parenting behaviours protect against CV during adolescence. An empirical study investigated whether experiences of childhood maltreatment were associated with online victimisation and whether this relationship was mediated by attachment insecurity and risky electronic communication in an adolescent sample. Method: A systematic review of the literature identified seventeen studies which met inclusion criteria. Parenting behaviours were categorised into offline and online parenting behaviours and the findings from each study were reported. Studies were also assessed against 15 quality criteria. In the second study, 123 students aged 12- 16 were recruited. Five self-report questionnaires were administered measuring experiences of childhood maltreatment, attachment, risky electronic communication, electronic media use and online victimisation. Results: Offline parenting behaviours, particularly general monitoring, may reduce the likelihood of adolescents experiencing CV. There was greater variation in the findings relating to online parental mediation strategies, but in general these strategies did not consistently predict a significant increase nor a reduction in CV. The empirical study found that whilst attachment anxiety partially mediated the relationship between childhood maltreatment and online victimisation, attachment avoidance and risky electronic communication did not. However, childhood maltreatment and risky electronic communication were significant predictors of online victimisation. Conclusion: Parenting behaviours and early childhood experiences may play an important role in the victimisation of adolescents online. Interventions which promote positive parenting and attachment security may help to protect young people against online victimisation. However, more empirically rigorous and longitudinal studies are needed to enhance our understanding of the risk factors and the protective factors involved.