‘What’s Going on in My Cyber World?’ A Mixed Methods Study of Chinese University Students’ Involvement in Cyber Aggression

Author: Xiaozhu Pan

Pan, Xiaozhu, 2019 ‘What’s Going on in My Cyber World?’ A Mixed Methods Study of Chinese University Students’ Involvement in Cyber Aggression, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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The existing literature on cyber aggression indicates that aggressive cyber behaviours are pervasive among adolescents. However, Akbulut and Eristi (2011) maintained that online aggressive behaviour could be prevalent in all age groups. Further, Beran, Rinaldi, Bickham and Rich (2012) indicated that there is continuity in young people’s behaviours from secondary school through to university. No studies on cyber aggression among university students in a Chinese cultural context have been found. This research used a mixed methods approach to assess the problem of cyber aggression among Chinese university students. A structured inquiry was first used to collect quantitative data to discover the prevalence, types and digital environments of university students’ involvement in cyber aggression. A qualitative approach involving semi-structured interviews enabled this study to go beyond the quantitative study outcomes to provide an in-depth description and explanation of cyber aggression among Chinese university students. Different perspectives of the problem were examined and explored using a combination of these two types of data. The quantitative data were collected from a cyber aggression survey of 1191 Chinese university students attending a municipal university in Beijing, China, aged between 18 and 23. The results revealed that many students were involved in cyber aggression. Male students were more likely to be victimised by, and perpetrate, cyber aggression. Compared to other year level students, students in the final year of their undergraduate degree were more likely to target others and experience cyber aggression. Making mean or hurtful comments and spreading rumours were the most common types of victimisation and perpetration. WeChat and massive multiplayer online games were the most common environments of victimisation and perpetration. The qualitative data were collected from semi-structured individual interviews with 27 Chinese university students who participated in the previous survey. The findings suggested various explanations for cyber aggressive behaviour, including internal factors, relationship problems and the online anonymity and disinhibition effect. Cyber aggression experiences were reported to have negative and long-lasting effects on Chinese university students. The participants indicated that they did not have adequate strategies for responding to cyber aggression and parents did not contribute to students’ responses. Traditional Chinese cultural values played a role in parents’ teaching and students’ reactions to cyber aggression. The findings suggest that cyber aggression is a problem extending to emerging adults in China. More research is required to develop theoretical frameworks to help explain emerging adults’ online behaviour in a technological context and to inform prospective educational programs to help them to regulate their behaviour in cyberspace. Specific regulations should be legislated to supervise and constrain the online behaviours of young adults.

Keywords: cyber aggression, Chinese university students, young adults


Thesis type: Professional Doctorate
Completed: 2019
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr. Grace Skrzypiec