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Technology-Based Harassment Victimization:  Placement in a Broader Victimization Context

Summary:  This project aims to improve current policy and practice on technology-based harassment victimization by examining it within the context of other types of youth victimization, risk, and protective factors.  A nationally representative sample of 1,000 youth (ages 10-17) will be surveyed to: 1) understand technology-based harassment as it is occurring in the context of concurrent and prior victimization experiences, including whether poly-victimized youth are at particular risk for technology-based harassment; 2) define a typology of technology-based harassment incidents and their relationship to adverse consequences for youth; 3) determine whether technology-based harassment has similar risk and protective factors as other types of peer victimizations such as physical violence, sexual harassment, and bullying; 4) explore the role that incident-level characteristics of technology-based harassment (e.g., duration, relationship with the perpetrator) have on its impact (distress and disclosure), and 5) assess the frequency and level of involvement of youth as bystanders of technology-based harassment. 

Data will be collected from a national sample of youth (ages 10-18), who will be interviewed by telephone about their experiences with technology-based harassment during the last 12 months.  These youth will have completed the recent (2011) NatSCEV2 (The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence) about lifetime and past year victimization exposures.  This sampling opportunity allows for a longitudinal component to our design which permits us to understand with more precision how prior victimizations (as measured by the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire) serve as risk factors for technology-based harassment.  This study is funded by the National Institute of Justice.

Background

There has been a great deal of public anxiety around technology-based harassment victimization recently; and schools, law enforcement and parents are scrambling to educate youth and establish policies with limited research to guide them.  While the role of technology in youth victimization is the subject of increasing study, most research so far has studied it in isolation or within the confines of a specific area of victimization, such as bullying.  This leaves a serious gap in the field’s understanding of how technology-based harassment is similar to or different from “offline” peer victimization as well as how often it happens concurrently with other, non-peer-involved victimization experiences.  Furthermore, little data is available on whether technology-based harassment victimization stems from the same or different sets of risk factors as other forms of youth victimization.  Finally, there are critical and qualitative differences in the experiences that are currently defined as “technology-based harassment” with different emotional impacts for youth and important implications for education, prevention, and response. 
To address these gaps in the research, the current study aims to provide nationally representative and detailed data on technology-based harassment victimization incidents, understanding these victimizations in the context of a broad range of previous and current youth victimization experiences.

 

Goals and Objectives

1. Use detailed information about overall victimization experiences and harassment incident characteristics to define a typology of technology-based harassment incidents and their relationship to adverse consequences for youth (e.g., depression, anxiety and delinquency).

2. Determine whether technology-based harassment has similar risk and protective factors as other types of peer victimization such as physical violence, sexual harassment, and bullying that do not involve technology.

3. Explore the role that incident-level characteristics of harassment (e.g., duration, relationship with the perpetrator) have on its impact (distress and disclosure) and whether this varies based on the involvement of technology.

4. Assess the frquency and level of involvement of youth as bystanders of technology-based harassment as compared with non-technology involved peer victimization.

 

Methodology

This study builds on a previous study conducted by the applicants, NatSCEV2, by re-interviewing youth respondents who will be ages 10 through 18 at the start of data collection (September, 2013).  Data collected as part of NatSCEV2 includes a complete assessment of lifetime and past year victimization as measured by the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (JVQ), along with various risk and protective factors.  As such we will have longitudinal data for the majority of our constructs; new items introduced include a comprehensive series of screener questions about harassment victimization, as well as follow-up questions gathering detailed incident-level characteristics on up to two unique harassment experiences.  Questions will highlight the nature and involvement of technology in the victimization, if it exists.  The use of screener and follow-up questions about specific incidents is a unique methodology which allows us to calculate an accurate, unduplicated count of the percentage of youth reporting such victimization, it also serves as a solid foundation for youth to respond to detailed questions about what happened, who was involved, and how the incident made them feel.   This is a technique developed and refined in three national Youth Internet Safety Surveys, each conducted by the researchers of this study.

NatSCEV2 was conducted with caregivers and youth recruited from households across the United States using a combination of random digit dial (RDD) and address-based sampling (ABS) procedures to ensure a representative sample of cell-phone households.  NatSCEV2 data was collected between September 1 and December 31, 2011.  A total of 4,503 youth, ages < 1 year through 17 constituted the NatSCEV2 sample.  Telephone interviews were conducted directly with youth, ages 10 through 17, while parents completed interviews for youth ages < 1 through 9.  

Interviews for NatSCEV2 were administered by Abt SRBI, Inc., a national survey research organization and the subcontractor for the current project.  Abt SRBI maintains identifying information for respondents from NatSCEV2 who gave permission to be re-contacted about future research. 

Eligibility for the current study will include:

1. Families participating in NatSCEV2 who agreed to be re-contacted about future research (80% of the original sample).

2. English-speaking youth (caregiver may be English- or Spanish-speaking).

3. Youth between the ages of 10 and 17 on January 1, 2013.

Households meeting the eligibility requirements described above will be contacted by Abt SRBI, Inc.  A primary caregiver in each household will be given a description of the study, provided with information for informed consent, and asked to complete a brief telephone interview aimed at collecting information about the household and eligible youth in the household.  Upon completing this interview, parents will be asked to provide consent for their child to participate in the study.  Informed verbal assent will also be obtained from the youth prior to their participation.  Abt SRBI maintains a toll-free phone line to answer questions and verify the authenticity of the survey.  Further, participants will also be provided with the phone number and email addresses of the study researchers, as well as a University of New Hampshire (UNH) Institution Review Board (IRB) contact.  Youth respondents will be promised confidentiality, and will be paid $25 for their participation.

This study is being conducted under the supervision of the University of New Hampshire’s Human Subjects Committee and conforms to the rules mandated by research projects funded by the National Institute of Justice.

For More Information Contact:

Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD
Crimes against Children Research Center
Kimberly.Mitchell@unh.edu
603-862-4533