Participate / Doctoral Network

Sámi Schoolchildren Online Bullying: New Research Insights

A new research project is going to look into whether Sámi students in Norwegian schools are more involved in online bullying than other students, as a result of their background. “There is hardly any research on Sámi schoolchildren and online bullying,” says Luisa Morello, who is writing her doctoral thesis on the topic.

Sámi schoolchildren engaging in traditional activities

Luisa Morello is a PhD candidate at the Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioural Research in Education (the Learning Environment Centre), and as part of her doctorate, she is investigating whether Sámi children and ethnic minority young people in schools in Norway are involved in online bullying as a result of their background and the possible motives behind this kind of bullying. She will look specifically at online bullying among students with an ethnic minority background and indigenous background in Norway. This study is part of a major international research project on cyberbullying called PARTICIPATE.

“This is a very exciting and important topic, which I hope my project will help shed light on and generate solid knowledge about,” says Morello.

Bullying can have serious consequences

Bullying is a serious public health because of the consequences it can have – both for the individuals who are bullied, but also for the people who bully others. Bullying can have severe and long-term consequences for the person who is bullied. Young children who are bullied might be even more susceptible and can develop a range of different problems. Even after the bullying has stopped, the person who has been bullied may struggle with the consequences for many years afterwards.

Ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, like the Sámi people, can be particularly vulnerable groups when it comes to involvement in online bullying, according to Morello. Together with colleagues, she has started to investigate how much research there is worldwide on cyberbullying related to ethnicity or indigenous background among young people. The preliminary findings indicate that there is very little research on this topic, and that no research has been conducted on Sámi schoolchildren and online bullying before.

“There has been a greater focus on ethnicity in the research on online bullying, due to the increase in migration over time. Migration leads to greater diversity in society and schools, which in turn affects children and young people’s development. Despite this, we found very little research on this topic, she says.

More research on traditional bullying based on ethnicity

In the preliminary literature review, two lines of research have emerged. The first one focuses on cyberbullying involving ethnic minorities as either the victim or the perpetrator, but without the motivation behind the behaviour necessarily being related to ethnicity. This body of research mainly focused on identifying differences in incidence or the motives for bullying that involved ethnic minority and majority groups, Morello explains.

“The research has suggested that there may be distinct cyberbullying dynamics among children and young people belonging to different ethnic groups, and it may therefore be important to explore these differences further,” she says.

Identity-based bullying can be more widespread online

The second line of research emerged refers to bullying others because of their ethnicity. Morello says there is more research on offline bullying based on ethnicity than on online bullying.

“Research on offline bullying shows us that in most studies young migrants are more at risk for bullying involvment than their non-migrant peers,” says Morello.

Regarding cyberbullying, the literature preliminary review also found a study on Australian indigenous people that suggested that ethnic minorities or indigenous young people were more subjected to cyberbullying because of their background than their majority-population peers.

“Identity-based bullying can be even more widespread online than in real life, and that it can lead to even greater negative consequences than cyberbullying that is not based on an aspect of identity,” Morello explains.

Researching Sámi schoolchildren

The PhD candidate is slightly surprised that there is no previous research on online bullying and Sámi pupils in Norwegian schools. Although indigenous people appear to have been largely overlooked in research on cyberbullying in general, they may have experiences related to various contextual, cultural and political factors that merit more in-depth research.

“For example, Sámi people in Norway have specific rights that other migrants do not have, giving them a stronger social standing. However, they have also suffered from a long-lasting policy of assimilation, with potentially discriminatory consequences. It is important to take differences between different ethnic groups into account in order to truly understand the mechanisms of the phenomenon of online bullying,” she adds.

The PhD candidate is currently working on recruiting schools in Norway to take part in the research project. She wants to get in touch with rheadmasters who have Sámi pupils at their school, and says that schools are welcome to contact her directly if they are interested in taking part in the project.


Text: Maria Gilje Strand
Illustration based on Riddu Riđđu, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia CommonsPortrait photo: Elisabeth Tønnessen/UiS



Lucia Morello engage in research on whether Sámi schoolchildren participate more in online bullying