A new study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University attempts to understand the lack of intervention when it comes to online bullying. Information on the study comes from Sciencedaily.com.
The study involved 221 college students participating in an online chat room where they witnessed a fellow student become the victim of “bullying.” The harassment was not real as the conversation between the victim and bully was scripted.
The students were under the impression that they were to take a personality test and give feedback on the functionality of the chat room option, so they did not know that the bullying would be taking place.
About three minutes into the experiment, participants could see that the victim was having trouble saving a response for the survey. The bullying ensues with the chat monitor saying things like, “How did you get into college if you can’t even take a survey?” The bullying continued throughout the survey with the victim never directly addressing the bully.
About 68% said that they noticed the cyberbullying happening in the chat window. However, of those who noticed, only 10% intervened by either confronting the bully or helping the victim. A little over half of that 10% reprimanded the bully, while a quarter insulted the bully.
The remainder offered to help the victim through either social or technical support. This was found to be the least common response.
Students were then asked to rate the chat room and whether or not they’d recommend its use for future surveys. About 70% of the participants who noticed the cyberbullying either gave bad marks to the bullying chat monitor or did not recommend the chat room. The researchers considered this as indirect intervention.
That left about 15% not involving themselves directly or indirectly.
The Students’ Response
After the students gave their review of the chat room, they were let in on the experiment. Kelly Dillion, one of the researchers, said that many of the students who either did not respond or indirectly intervened wished that they had directly involved themselves. They said that they wanted to respond, but weren’t sure what to do.
This study brings up an interesting case for cyberbystanding. 10% seems like a low statistic, but it’s not all that shocking. Even at the college level, many of the participants weren’t sure what to do. The low number of participants who directly involved themselves may reflect the inherent disconnect with cyberbullying.
Because it’s not happening face-to-face, it appears less real or serious. Victims could seemingly shutoff the screen and walk away if they wanted. But this isn’t always the case with cyberbullying.
Sometimes that bullying follows the victim and creeps into their real life. This is especially true in the case of social platforms like Facebook. Many of the people who are included in your network have some relation to you in the outside world. What is said online feels more real when you have to face those same people later on.
The study also proposes a useful alternative to cyberbully confrontation. If you’re uncomfortable with addressing a cyberbully directly, or are unsure of how to do it effectively, you can choose to support the victim.
By supporting the victim you likewise express disapproval towards the bully’s behavior. The victim gains a sense of comfort and the bully loses his or her power to control the situation.
So next time you witness cyberbullying taking place and you’re not sure how to confront the bully, support the person being bullied instead. In many cases, this may even be the most helpful course of action.