Comparative Study of Cyberbullying in Qatar and the UK: Risk Factors, Impact on Health and Solutions

Principle Investigators:

Professor Muthanna Samara
Professor Peter Smith
Professor Julia Davidson

Postdoctoral Research Fellows:
Dr. Aiman El Asam

​​​​​​​Funding Organisation:
Qatar National Research Fund

Start-Finish date:
September 2013 - March 2017

What is Cyberbullying?

Bullying and cyberbullying are currently high profile concerns for health practitioners, policy makers, schools, teachers, parents, and communities across the world. Bullying victimization refers to a student being exposed repeatedly to negative actions on the part of one or more other students with the intention to inflict, or attempts to inflict, injury or discomfort upon another 1-3 and involves an imbalance in strength, either physical or psychological4-6. Children in bullying research are classified either as bullies, victims, bully/victims (they both bully other children and get victimized at other times) or as not involved in any bullying action (neutrals)7-9. Bullying and victimization can be physical, including acts such as hitting and physical or verbal threats, often referred to as direct victimization10,11 or relational10-12, which is the purposeful damage and manipulation of peer relationships by malicious gossip, isolation or withdrawal of friendships13-15.

With the increasing use of electronic and networked computers and mobile phones, a new form of bullying called “cyberbullying” has appeared and increased among young people, which is bullying by using electronic forms of contact16. Internet use percentages in both Qatar (51.8%)17 and the UK (82.5%)18 are higher than the world average use (28.7%). Percentage use of the internet in the UK is also amongst the highest in Europe (European average: 58.4%)18 especially amongst young people (9-19 year old) who mostly use the internet at home (74%) and somewhere else (94%) for emails (72%), instant messages (55%) and use of chat rooms (21%)19. On the other hand, internet and broadband penetration in Qatar is similar to the European average and amongst the highest in the Middle East (51.8% vs. 29.8%)17. In addition, The Mobile Life Report20 found that 94% of British youngsters own mobile phones. Qatar also has a very high uptake of mobile phones (97.8% of households), which is nearly 10% higher than the EU average20.

What are the short-term and long-term implications of cyberbullying?
Traditional bullying and cyberbullying are often associated with short and long term impact on the child, being a victim, bully or bully/victim. Being victims of bullying is associated with poor internalising and externalising problems. Internalising come in the form of poor mental health e.g. depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem and in extreme cases suicide and suicide ideation. Furthermore, poor peer relations and poor friendship quality, social isolation and lower academic achievement could be other forms of externalising consequences to being victims of bullying and cyberbullying. Such problems are found to be more critical among the victim-bully category, while bullies (perpetrators) do exhibit some of these internalising and externalising problems to lower degrees.The longevity of such impact can range from short term to a lifelong impact.

What is the aim of the present research?

This study aims to explore traditional and cyber bullying amongst school children aged 11-16 years old in Qatari and UK schools and identify high risk groups for bullying to inform policy makers of possible diagnostic methods, legalization and interventions. Thus, the objectives of the study are:

(1) to evaluate the adequacy of the current socio-legal and policy context of cyberbullying in Qatar and the UK;
(2) to review and evaluate the diagnostic methods and tools of mental health and pathological problems that are related to cyberbullying;
(3) to describe the incidence and nature of bullying in the converged online-offline environment experienced in the Qatari and UK schools (aged 11-16 years);
4) to investigate the risk factors and consequences of cyberbullying amongst adolescents in a smaller sub-sample, including compulsive internet use and problematic drug use;
5) to hold an international workshop on cyberbullying and its comorbidities in Qatar including all researchers and practitioners on this field. In addition, a workshop will be held in Qatar on the issue of bullying for school teachers, university students and school students’ councils (separate funding for these workshops will be sought and applied for from the Conference and Workshop Sponsorship Program “CWSP”);
(6) to establish and structure the first Arab and Middle Eastern Countries Cooperation Framework and Network on cyberbullying and psychopathology and health;
(7) to conduct a semi- structured interview with a focus group of pupils about their perception and suggestions on how to tackle bullying in schools; (8) to explore and visually represent the personal accounts of bullying for a small group of pupils.

What does the study hope to achieve?

There are various implications to this study:

  • Produce an up to date report of bullying and cyberbullying in the context of Qatar in comparisons to the UK

  • Investigate the internalising and externalising problems associated with bullying and cyberbullying.

  • Inform policy makers, educators, practitioners, charities and lawyers (in Qatar and the UK) of new finding in the field of cyberbullying.

  • Initiate anti-bullying policy in Qatar.

  • Study contextual and cultural factors associated with bullying and cyberbullying

  • Defining bullying in the context of Qatar.

Reference List

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15. Wolke D, Woods S, Bloomfield L, Karstadt L. The association between direct and relational bullying and behaviour problems among primary school children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2000;41(8):989-1002.

16. Smith PK, Mahdavi J, Carvalho M, Fisher S, Russell S, Tippett N. Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2008;49(4):376-385.

17. Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics (2010): Middle-Eastern Statistics.

18. Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics (2010): European Statistics.

19. Livingstone S. Children and the internet: great expectations, challenging realities: Polity Press, Oxford, UK, 2009.

20. Qatar’s ICT Landscape (2009).