An experimental self-compassion intervention for victims of cyberbullying

Date

2022-05-06

Authors

Davidson, Oliver Anton

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Abstract

Today, most adolescents and young adults have experienced cyberbullying or known someone who has experienced cyberbullying. While cyberbullying is becoming ubiquitous, it’s consequences can still be quite severe. Cybervictims tend to report lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression, anxiety, anger, and aggression. Despite the prevalence and consequences of cybervictimization, only a few interventions exist that reduce the prevalence of cyberbullying and even fewer that mitigate its emotional impact. This study sought to investigate the potential of one social-emotional intervention for cybervictimization, self-compassion, to reduce an individual’s negative emotional response (i.e., depression, anxiety, anger) to a difficult online interaction and subsequent negative behaviors (i.e., retaliatory aggression), as well as how it compared to a similar self-esteem intervention and a control group. To investigate this, participants completed pretest measures of mood before playing an online game in which they received negative feedback from their opponent. Afterwards, participants were assigned to either a self-compassion, self-esteem or control writing condition and completed post-test measures of mood. They also had the opportunity to retaliate against their opponent. Using MANCOVA, significant differences in in measures of mood and retaliation between the groups was found when adjusting for pretest mood. Separate ANCOVA tests for each of the mood variables revealed significant group differences in depression, anger, and shame and a marginal difference in anxiety. Post-hoc group comparisons using Tukey’s indicated a significant difference between the self-compassion group and the control group on mean levels of shame, suggesting that self-compassion helped individuals to avoid making severe negative attributions towards themselves (i.e., shameful feelings that the self is bad). However, post-hoc testing also revealed significant group differences between the self-esteem group and the control group in posttest levels of depression. While the effects of this brief mood manipulation were small, the encouraging directions and trends in the findings suggest a brief self-compassion training intervention specifically for helping teens and young adults manage difficult online interactions may be a useful tool in combating the worst consequences of the cyberbullying epidemic.

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