Association between Cyber-Bullying and Weapons Carrying at School: Analysis of the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Thompson, Erika
Morris, Kimberly
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Objective: Previous research has found that victims of bullying are more likely to carry a weapon and say that it is “not wrong” to take a gun to school. Moreover, studies have shown that cyberbullying and traditional bullying are highly correlated. With the rate of online harassment nearly doubling from 2000 to 2010 further research is needed to study the link between cyberbullying and weapons carrying. The objective of this study was to examine the association between cyberbullying and weapons carrying at school among adolescents participating in the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Methods: The YRBS 2017 is a representative dataset for 9th through 12th graders in both public and private schools in the United States (N = 14,765). The analytic sample was restricted to a complete case analysis for the variables of interest (N = 13,944). The outcome variable was weapon carrying on campus (yes/no). Predictor variables included: cyberbullying, sex, grade, race/ethnicity, and bullying. A survey-weighted adjusted logistic regression model was estimated for the association between cyberbullying and weapons carrying using SAS 9.4. Results: 14.84% of students surveyed reported experiencing cyberbullying and 3.51% reported ever carrying a weapon on school ground. Students reporting weapons carrying were 74.7% male, 32.8% 11th graders, and 56.0% white; 27.7% reported experience bullying, and 22.2% cyberbullying. In the multivariable model predicting the outcome of weapon carrying on school grounds, exposure to cyberbullying, (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR) = 1.70, 95% CI: 1.27, 2.29), being a male student (AOR = 3.60, 95% CI: 2.91, 4.44), being in 11th(AOR = 2.29, 95% CI: 1.64, 3.19) or 12th(AOR = 1.97, 95% CI: 1.27, 2.64) grade and being bullied on school grounds (AOR = 1.56, 95% CI:1.21, 2.00) were significantly associated. Conclusions: Although a statistically significant correlation between cyberbullying and carrying a weapon on school grounds was found, results should be interpreted with caution due to the temporality of the data, and correlation between bullying and carrying a weapon on school grounds. Regardless, the results show that additional research is needed to investigate the affect cyberbullying has on eventual weapons carrying to ensure schools remain safe in the modern era.