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Exploring the understandings and experiences of cyber violence amongst teenage girls.

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Date

2020

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Abstract

The use of social networking sites (SNSs), such as Facebook, is common amongst schoolgirls. While SNSs provide opportunities for sexual connection, desire, and pleasure, it is also a space within which teenagers construct themselves and interact with others in the context of gender inequalities, power, and violence. This study explores teenage girls’ understandings and experiences of cyber violence and reasons for its prevalence amongst them. Drawing on post-structural feminist theory to carry out this research enabled me to garner diverse understandings and experiences of teenage girls, to conceptualise multiple positions, and to consider the fluid nature of identities. I conducted this study amongst 30 teenage school girls aged 16-19 years who are active on Facebook. I utilised qualitative methods to collect data by adopting a blended approach, using face-to-face in-depth interviews, and a virtual group discussion on a closed Facebook group. Ethical considerations were adhered to in terms of anonymity, autonomy, obtaining informed consent, non-maleficence, and beneficence. The findings show that teenage girls in this study understood that cyber violence is a phenomenon involving technological devices and mediums to cause harm to others, resulting in adverse consequences. Their understandings and experiences of cyber violence are grounded within gender roles and identities. Cyber violence has a powerful impact on teenage girls; however, they are also perpetrators of cyber violence, thereby demonstrating the complex ways in which they shape and reshape their identities in different contexts. In addition, the study shows how gender violence interchanges between cyberspace and physical spaces. It is vital to consider the social construction of gender, how girls perform their femininities, and how boys enact their masculinities, within but not limited to cyberspace, given the interrelationship between cyberspace and physical spaces. There is a need not only for gender equality and balance in cyberspace but most crucially for support for the construction of positive, non-violent forms of masculinities and femininities. This research highlights the need to understand and intervene in new and developing contexts, where girls continue to be rendered vulnerable to violation.

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Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.

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