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Abstract

Mobile bullying, which is one form of cyberbullying, is escalating in schools in South Africa. Research can contribute to better understanding of the nature of this aggression, and provide guidance in determining appropriate interventions and administration of justice. However, studies into cyberbullying tend to focus mainly on the urban environment. Rural South Africa involves a large percentage of mobile phone users and experiences in relatively different cultural and social-economic conditions. Lack of research on rural mobile bullying calls into question the applicability of existing theories of crime and cyberbullying to the rural context and their effectiveness in guiding legal and policy interventions. The present study investigated mobile bullying among high school rural students, the influencing factors, the applicability of earlier theories, and legal and policy implications. A survey of 3500 students found that mobile bullies are intensive users of chat rooms, Facebook and Twitter. Certain forms of bullying increase with age, which is not consistent with earlier claims. Bullying by teasing increased up to 14 years, dropped at 15 but rose again from 16 to 18 years for a different group of students. Bullies mainly came from unstable residential areas and lack of self-control predicts mobile bullying the most. We found support for the applicability of the Life-course, Self-control, and Social disorganization theories. Legal and policy implications are discussed.

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