Researchers have unearthed the real reason why cyber-bullying continues unabated. Apparently, those with the power to do something never rush to the aide of the sufferers. Moreover, the victims seem to bear it and try to move-on, allowing cyber-bullies to continue their virtual aggression on the same person or hunt their next victim with impunity.
A recent study into online bullying revealed that nine out of 10 internet users won't do a thing to stop it. Researchers from Ohio State University found that when confronted with varying forms of online bullying, majority of the users tended to shy away. Neither did the victims attempt a direct confrontation – widely known to force the bullies to back-off or rethink their acts – they merely attempted to avoid anything related to the acts of aggression against them.
To simulate cyber-bullying, researchers rigged a supposed "support chat environment" where 221 students would be subjected to cyber-bullying. The students had no clue about the experiment and those conducting the study led the students to believe they were merely testing a chat support function for an online survey site.
During the "routine" online chat session, users were randomly and abruptly asked to take part in the simulated online survey. During the test, a script was executed in which a simulated user would have trouble completing the survey, only to be berated by a (scripted) administrator.
Astonishingly, researchers realized a majority of the subjects chose to ignore the act of virtual bullying. Just one in 10 decided to directly intervene by confronting the administrator or by stepping in to help the victim. Apparently, such meek and mute bystander behavior is quite common, and hence, cyber-bullying continues to remain a threat for impressionable minds, lamented the study's lead author Kelly Dillon.
"Many other studies have shown bystanders are reluctant to get involved when they see bullying. The results disappointed me as a human, but they didn't surprise me as a scientist."
Cyber-bullying has become an omnipresent danger for internet users. Though Einstein himself might have indicated that ignoring such virtual thugs is a good technique to deal with cyber-bullying, it is certainly not a long-term solution.
As a sliver of hope for internet users, the researchers observed something reassuring. Though the users were hesitant to directly confront the bully, 70 percent of the subjects did give the abusive person a poor review in retrospect. This indicates that people do take a note of cyber-bullying, but will not directly intervene, but will do something about it later on. Unfortunately, that's not how cyber-bullies will curb their virtual abuse.