Fictitious online victimization: Exploration and creation of a measurement instrument

Sara Erreygers, Michelle Symons, Heidi Vandebosch, Sara Pabian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Reports of a handful of tragic cyberbullying cases, where assumed victims have committed suicide, have revealed that purported cyberbullying attacks are sometimes actually created by the victim himself or herself (using a fake name or posting anonymously). This phenomenon has been named self-cyberbullying, fictitious cyberbullying, digital self-harm, or digital Munchausen. To date, only a few studies have examined this phenomenon to a limited extent. Via a qualitative and quantitative survey, this study further explored forms, motives, contents, means, platforms, and pretended identities of fictitious online victimization in adolescents. In addition, in order to support future research on this topic, first steps were taken to develop and validate an index to assess fictitious online victimization. Positive correlations were found with traditional and cyberbullying and self-harm and negative correlations with self-esteem, subjective well-being, and life satisfaction. These results add to our understanding of the phenomenon and may lay the groundwork for future studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Media & Society
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Digital Munchausen
  • Digital self-harm
  • Fictitious cyberbullying
  • Fictitious online victimization
  • Self-cyberbullying


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