New Study Explores Bystander Intervention in Cyberbullying

A recent study, “Bystander Intervention in Cyberbullying,” was published by the National Communication Association’s Communication Monographs. The study highlighted the impact of bystanders in cyberbullying situations as well as discussed why there is a lower likelihood that a bystander intervenes during an online bullying incident.

Students in the study group were placed in hypothetical cyberbullying situations. Their responses were observed in order to understand more about how bystanders react online, as opposed to witnessing traditional bullying in-person. Researchers determined that many factors affect a bystander’s tendency to not intervene in a cyberbullying.

The study revealed that there is a greater sense of anonymity in web sites, social media platforms, and online chat pages. Bystanders are less likely to intervene in cyberbullying incidents because they are not easily discernable as witnesses to bullying and may feel distant or not responsible for speaking up. Moreover, cyberbullying allows bystanders to seem “invisible” and, because of this anonymity, don’t take the initiative to speak up for the victims of bullying.

This study exposed the importance of spreading awareness about cyberbullying. The findings demonstrate the potential of schools and communities to educate their stakeholders about cyberbullying and how the role of the bystander has changed with the emergence of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

National Health Promotion Associates is currently developing an online cyberbullying prevention learning tool to address the current issues and educate middle-schoolers on cyberbullying and bullying in general. This new online platform is an extension of Botvin LifeSkills Training’s “Stand Up, Speak Up!” bullying curriculum.


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