Women’s Cyberbullying Experiences and the Relationship to Social Presence in Online Discussions

Document Type

Journal Article

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In response to negative experiences like cyberbullying and online harassment, women have been found to chill their online participation by adopting defensive coping strategies in person and on social media (e.g., deleting their accounts, avoiding posting, increasing privacy settings). Cyberbullying affects the majority of undergraduate women, contributing to withdrawal from social media and chilling their participation in the growing world of collaborative online discussions. In this mixed-methods, three-article dissertation, I integrate surveys, observations, and interviews among undergraduate students (particularly women) to investigate how the chilling effect of cyberbullying extends into peer interactions within an increasingly common online instructional practice: online discussion boards. I observe that, in comparison to their non-victimized peers, women with prior cyberbullying experiences enact lower social presence and adopt self-silencing and conflict-avoidant coping strategies. In particular, these women avoid ever disagreeing with peers out of fear of starting “drama.” My research challenges educators to consider potential unintended consequences of instructional design choices and contributes to our understanding of how to design more equitable online learning environments for today’s socially networked adult learners.