New Study Sheds Light On Bystander Intervention In Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying study on bystanders via Facebook.

We have yet to scratch the surface in the emerging field of Cyberpsychology, but one headache that always seems to appear in the media is Cyberbullying.

Online bullying is quickly soaring and a significant number of cases are now resulting in tragedy, PsyPost reports.

The Bystander Intervention Study

According to a new study published in the National Communication Association’s Communication Monographs, researchers examined bystander intervention in cyberbullying and found promising results that explain why many witnesses or bystanders choose not to intervene in defense of a victim.

Researchers of the study — authors Nicholas Brody of the University of Puget Sound and Anita L. Vangelisti of the University of Texas at Austin — aimed at better understanding the behavior of “bystanders” or “witnesses” during cyberbullying episodes.

The study utilized two-pronged approaches on undergraduate students. In group one, students had to recall a Facebook cyberbullying incident — where they knew the victim — in the past six months. In addition, students were asked to share their reaction to the incident and any past experience with bullying.

Now, on the other hand, students of the second group were assigned to a hypothetical cyberbullying situation where they witnessed embarrassing pictures being leaked to a friend’s Facebook page — without the owner’s consent. Thereafter, students were asked to describe why they would intervene and just how far they would to go to help the victim.

The results of the study concluded that a psychological phenomenon known as “diffusion of responsibility” was significantly present throughout the experiment. This sociopsychological concept helps explain the “bystander effect,” in which people are less likely to feel a sense of responsibility or take action when a large group of people are present.

Furthermore, researchers found that users who perceive “invisibility” during digital communication may execute antisocial or dangerous behaviors.

Antisocial behavior on the internet is not a new phenomena. “Trolling” or online harassment, is synonymous with individuals who carry traits like psychopathy, machiavellianism, narcissism and sadism, several research studies — including one I participated in — have concluded.

Not too long ago, another cyberbullying study from Ohio State University concluded that the majority bystanders tend to roll their eyes the other way when confronted with an online bullying circumstance.

Kelly Dillon, the study’s lead author, was disenchanted with the results and said cyberbullying poses a substantial danger to all internet users.

“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.”

New Zealand Breaks Ground

While what Kelly says is true, every month, more is being done to put a stop on cyberbullying. Recently, New Zealand has passed a controversial law officially making cyberbullying a crime.

This, the New Zealand government believes, will limit bullying for children in the cybernetic world.

[Photo via Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]