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Cyberbullying: teenage girls’ online experiences of, and challenges to sexual harassment.

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The emergence of the internet has allowed for new modes of self-expression, whilst also providing new platforms for abusive social dynamics. There is a dearth of support in the response of schools, parents, and advisors to the experience of sexual harassment of young girls online. Cyber security practices, specifically the monitoring and support of online behaviour in academic policy can address the problem of sexual harassment and cyberbullying. Due to the rapidly changing nature of online landscapes, research connecting sexual harassment and cyber spaces remains minimal. Given the everchanging development of online spaces and dynamics, both governments and academic researchers have lagged in providing either sufficient study or governmental policy in the interest of protecting young people from online abuse. This study examines teenage girls’ online experiences of cyberbullying and sexual harassment and aims to understand how girls confront and challenge these issues. The dissertation adopts a multi-theoretical approach focusing on gender relational theory, femininities, theory of performativity, and feminist new materialism. Data was collected and collated through qualitative research methods in the purposive sampling of South African girls aged 13-18 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. This research was executed in Victoria High School through face-to-face semi-structured interviews, vignettes, and photo elicitations. While the results highlighted the pervasive experience of sexual harassment online, unexpectedly, the participants revealed their complicity in this harassment by actively engaging in harmful online practices. In response, this dissertation recommends that key stakeholders listen to the voices of young girls and work in synergy to offer support from abusive online behaviours. As attitudes about sex remain taboo in homes and schools, it is the role of these advisors to make comfortable spaces for discourse about sexual harassment. Furthermore, policy makers need to sanction greater penalties to prevent the recurrence of cybercrimes and protect young girls in these spaces.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.