Bystander intervention in cyberbullying




Brody, Nicholas Paul

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Cyberbullying incidents often occur in the presence of other bystanders. The inaction of bystanders can augment the deleterious effects of bullying on a victim. However, bystanders can often take action to stop a cyberbullying incident or offer support to the victim. Two studies examined the association between several variables which were expected to influence the propensity for a bystander to take action in cyberbullying incidents -- the number of bystanders, the depersonalization/anonymity of the bystander, and the relational closeness between the bystander and the victim. Moreover, the first study addressed the need for more descriptive research into cyberbullying by examining the strategies and topics used by perpetrators. Results of both Study 1 and Study 2 provided support for the diffusion of responsibility effect. Specifically, a higher number of bystanders was negatively associated with a bystander's propensity to intervene and stop the incident. In Study 2, this effect was moderated by both depersonalization and closeness. That is, individuals were most likely to intervene when they did not feel depersonalized, the victim was a close friend, and there were a low number of bystanders. Moreover, in both Study 1 and Study 2 the perceived anonymity of bystanders negatively related to their propensity to intervene, and closeness with the victim was associated with a higher likelihood to intervene and support the victim. Finally, descriptive data illustrated the types and strategies of cyberbullying episodes which occur in a college-aged sample. Altogether, the results shed light on the interplay of context, relationships, and technology in the behavior of bystanders to a cyberbullying episode.



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