Factors that influence bystander behavior in the cyberbully context

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Niblack, Jessica Ezra
Hertzog, Jodie

With the movement of bullying behaviors from the traditional school yard context into a new realm enhanced by technology; cyberbullying is quickly becoming more invasive and detrimental to adolescents in the modern world, leading to suicides (Tremlow, 2008), depressive symptomology (Ybarra, Alexander, and Mitchell, 2005), and school avoidance issues (Ahlfors, 2010). A vast amount of existing studies focus solely on cyberbullying victimization or perpetration (Lenhart, Madden, Smith, Purcell, Zickuhr, and Rainie, 2011; Vandebosch and Cleemput, 2009). However, the current research available on bystander engagement, specifically on how bystanders engage when faced with incidents of cyberbullying, is much more limited. The study at hand specifically focuses on the type of engagement enacted by bystanders (pro-social, which involves helping the victim, or traditional, which is ignoring the cyberbullying) when witnessing cyberbullying on popular Social Networking Sites (SNSs). Using secondary data collected by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project from 2011 and using Latane and Darley's (1970) bystander engagement model, the current research explores factors (ex.: sex, age, previous victimization, parental monitoring techniques) that may influence different types of engagement outcomes from bystanders. Initial findings suggest that approximately 88% of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 have witnessed cyberbullying exchanges on-line. The results of this exploratory study find that about 62% of adolescents are acting pro-socially while 74% are acting traditionally. Findings from the research will provide insights regarding cyberbullying for future research as well as possible implications for educators, administrators, and health care professionals working to encourage pro-social bystander engagement among youth.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Sociology