Online risk behaviour amongst adolescents – an experiment on Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking (available)

Starting Date: June 2019
Duration: 3 months
Time commitment: Full-time
Prerequisites: Javascript; an interest in interdisciplinary cyber research and experiments

Although social media provide a great opportunity to engage with a larger community, it can also encourage risky behaviours such as sharing inappropriate photos, engaging in risky stunts or pranks, engaging in sexual communications, cyberstalking and cyberbullying (Branley & Covey, 2018). It is not yet clear whether online risks are processed the same way as offline risks. If someone is more willing to take a financial risk at a casino, will they also be willing to take risks online? In addition, it is often not clear what the consequences of our actions will be. By introducing ambiguity into risk behaviours, we can more accurately explore online and offline risk behaviours to see whether people knowingly take risks or whether ambiguity preferences are different online compared to offline. This is particularly relevant as adolescents are believed to engage with higher levels of ambiguity (not risk) which could make them more vulnerable to online risks.

Who is eligible?

If you have an interest in interdisciplinary approaches of cybersecurity and are able to program in javascript, then please contact us! The project is run in collaboration with Psychology Department at Royal Holloway, and it revolves around the activities of the HIVE research group. You do not need to have any previous experience with experimental research methods, however, this is a good opportunity to actively learn.


Built on and jsPsych (javascript).

Task outline:

The objective is to build a game which will be the basis of an experiment. The purpose of the game is to win as many points as possible. On each trial participants will be presented with a circle made up of 10 segments. Each segment will be coloured green, red, or grey. More green segments indicate a higher likelihood of winning (money/followers), more red segments mean a higher likelihood of losing. More grey segments indicate a higher ambiguity (unknown value). The participants will be given two response buttons where they can choose to Act (gamble on winning or losing) or No Act (no change in current status). Each of these choices will be recorded.

The potential amounts of green, red, and grey segments, along with the size of the gains and losses will be changed from trial-to-trial and be read in from a spreadsheet or randomly generated.

At the end of the experiment, 5 previous trials will be chosen as random and played out to see what the participant wins. If the participant chose Not Act this will be highlighted and the total number of credits remains the same. If the participant chose to Act, this will be highlighted and the grey segments will change to red or green. The participant will then see a white ball land on a segment; if red the participant will lose a set amount of credits from the total, if green the participant will gain the number of credits set out below.