University of California Los Angeles study: Study explains when and why bystanders intervene in cyberbullying

18 Jan

Technology can be used for information gathering and to keep people connected. Some people use social media to torment others. Children can be devastated by thoughtless, mean, and unkind comments posted at social media sites. Some of the comments may be based upon rumor and may even be untrue. The effect on a particular child can be devastating. Because of the potential for harm, many parents worry about cyberbullying on social media sites. Moi wrote about bullying in Ohio State University study: Characteristics of kids who are bullies:

A Rotary Club in London has a statement about the Ripple Effect

Ripple Effect – Sending Waves of Goodness into the World
Like a drop of water falling into a pond, our every action ripples outward, affecting other lives in ways both obvious and unseen.
We touch the lives of those with whom we come into contact and, by extension, those with whom they come into contact.
When our actions spring from a spirit of kindness or compassion or generosity, we set into motion a “virtuous cycle” that radiates far beyond our ability to see, or perhaps even fully comprehend.
Just as a smile is infectious, so are more overt forms of service. Our objective — whether in something as formal as a highly-structured website development project or as casual as the spontaneous small kindnesses we share with strangers in hopes of brightening their day — is to send waves of positive change in the world, one act of service at a time.

Unfortunately, some children due to a variety of behaviors in their lives miss the message of the “Ripple Effect.”

Science Daily reported in Psychology study explains when and why bystanders intervene in cyberbullying:

People on social media are often unsupportive of cyberbullying victims who have shared highly personal feelings, UCLA psychologists report.

Compared to face-to-face situations, bystanders are even less likely to intervene with online bullying. The researchers wanted to learn why bystanders are infrequently supportive of when bullying occurs online.

In a new study, the researchers created a fictitious Facebook profile of an 18-year-old named Kate, who, in response to a post, received a mean comment — “Who cares! This is why nobody likes you” — from a Facebook friend named Sarah. That comment gets six likes.

The study involved 118 people, ages 18 to 22, from throughout the United States, 58 percent of the participants were female, and were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. They were randomly divided into four groups; each group saw Sarah’s nasty comment in response to a different Facebook post from Kate. Across the four groups, Kate’s Facebook post varied in level of personal disclosure (more or less personal) and whether it was positive or negative.

Two groups saw Kate make a highly personal disclosure about a relationship. “I hate it when you miss someone like crazy and you think they might not miss you back :(” (negative) or “I love it when you like someone like crazy and you think they might like you back :)” (positive).

The other two groups saw Kate make a less personal comment about the popular HBO program, “Game of Thrones.” “I hate it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you have to wait a whole week to watch more :(” or “I love it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you can’t wait until next week to watch more :).”

Participants then responded to questions about how much they blamed Kate for being cyberbullied, how much empathy they had for Kate and how likely they would be to support her.

Although the majority of participants considered Sarah’s comment an example of cyberbullying, they varied in their responses to Kate’s being bullied depending on her original post. Regardless of whether Kate’s post was positive or negative, participants viewed Kate more negatively when she posted a highly personal disclosure.

“We found that when the Facebook post is a more personal expression of the victim’s feelings, participants showed lower levels of empathy and felt Kate was more to blame for being cyberbullied,” said Hannah Schacter, a UCLA graduate student in developmental psychology, and lead author of the study, which is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior…. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160115100945.htm

Citation:

Psychology study explains when and why bystanders intervene in cyberbullying

Rather than placing the burden on victims to monitor their online behavior, more online empathy is needed

Date:       January 15, 2016

Source:   University of California – Los Angeles

Summary:

People on social media are often unsupportive of cyberbullying victims who have shared highly personal feelings, psychologists report. In a new study, the researchers created a fictitious Facebook profile of an 18-year-old named Kate, who received a mean comment — ‘Who cares! This is why nobody likes you’ — that gets six likes.

Journal Reference:

  1. Hannah L. Schacter, Shayna Greenberg, Jaana Juvonen. Who’s to blame?: The effects of victim disclosure on bystander reactions to cyberbullying. Computers in Human Behavior, 2016; 57: 115 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.018

Here is the press release from the University of California Los Angeles:

UCLA psychology study explains when and why bystanders intervene in cyberbullying

Rather than placing the burden on victims to monitor their online behavior, more online empathy is needed

Stuart Wolpert | January 14, 2016

Even when people agree that someone has been a victim of cyberbullying, participants view the victim more negatively when she posted a highly personal disclosure.

People on social media are often unsupportive of cyberbullying victims who have shared highly personal feelings, UCLA psychologists report.

Compared to face-to-face situations, bystanders are even less likely to intervene with online bullying. The researchers wanted to learn why bystanders are infrequently supportive of when bullying occurs online.

In a new study, the researchers created a fictitious Facebook profile of an 18-year-old named Kate, who, in response to a post, received a mean comment — “Who cares! This is why nobody likes you” — from a Facebook friend named Sarah. That comment gets six likes.

The study involved 118 people, ages 18 to 22, from throughout the United States, 58 percent of the participants were female, and were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. They were randomly divided into four groups; each group saw Sarah’s nasty comment in response to a different Facebook post from Kate. Across the four groups, Kate’s Facebook post varied in level of personal disclosure (more or less personal) and whether it was positive or negative.

Two groups saw Kate make a highly personal disclosure about a relationship. “I hate it when you miss someone like crazy and you think they might not miss you back ☹” (negative) or “I love it when you like someone like crazy and you think they might like you back ☺” (positive).

The other two groups saw Kate make a less personal comment about the popular HBO program, “Game of Thrones.” “I hate it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you have to wait a whole week to watch more ☹” or “I love it when a Game of Thrones episode ends and you can’t wait until next week to watch more ☺.”

Participants then responded to questions about how much they blamed Kate for being cyberbullied, how much empathy they had for Kate and how likely they would be to support her.

Although the majority of participants considered Sarah’s comment an example of cyberbullying, they varied in their responses to Kate’s being bullied depending on her original post. Regardless of whether Kate’s post was positive or negative, participants viewed Kate more negatively when she posted a highly personal disclosure.

“We found that when the Facebook post is a more personal expression of the victim’s feelings, participants showed lower levels of empathy and felt Kate was more to blame for being cyberbullied,” said Hannah Schacter, a UCLA graduate student in developmental psychology, and lead author of the study, which is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Participants were asked, on a scale of one to five, whether they “felt for” Kate and whether they blamed Kate for Sarah’s criticism of her. Although the differences were small (about one third of point), they showed a consistent pattern of less forgiving responses when Kate posted about her personal issues as opposed to about Game of Thrones.

The authors found that victim-blaming and empathy for the victim influenced whether participants would intervene by sending a supportive message to the bullying victim (Kate), posting a supportive message, or posting that they disagree with the bully’s comment.  When participants felt that Kate deserved to be bullied and felt less empathy for her, they were less likely to express support for the victim.

“The emotional reactions toward Kate help explain whether online bystanders are likely to support the victim,” said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and senior author of the research.

“Our study suggests oversharing of personal information leads bystanders to blame and not feel for the victim,” Schacter said.

On social media websites, there appear to be unwritten rules about what is acceptable, and this study suggests that oversharing personal emotions or information violates these rules, she said.

“Young people need to understand that by revealing personal issues publicly online, they may make themselves more vulnerable to attacks from those seeking to harm others,” Juvonen said.

Sharing your feelings with a close friend is quite different from publicly sharing with many people who don’t know you well.

However, Schacter and Juvonen emphasize that the study’s findings have important implications for changing how people react when they see online bullying. Rather than placing the burden on victims to monitor their online behavior, the authors say that more online empathy is needed. This is a challenge, they note, because bystanders do not see the anguish of victims of online bullying.

“Supportive messages can make a big difference in how the victim feels,” Schacter said. Other research, she noted, shows that sharing of troubles can help strengthen friendships among students and young adults.

Shayna Greenberg, a recent UCLA graduate who worked with Schacter and Juvonen on the study, is a co-author.

The research was partly funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a Sigma Xi Grant in Aid of Research for Schacter.

Previous studies on bullying by Juvonen and her colleagues have found that:

Media Contact

Stuart Wolpert

310-206-0511

swolpert@support.ucla.edu

Two articles describe the effects of social networking on teen relationships. In the first article, Antisocial Networking?, Hillary Stout writes in the New York Times about toxic social networking sites and their effect on teens. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/fashion/02BEST.html?pagewanted=all

Hans Villarica wrote the excellent article in Time, Dealing With Cyberbullying: 5 Essential Parenting Tips

Make sure your kids know cyberbullying is wrong. Many kids don’t understand that when they write down and disseminate feelings of frustration, jealousy or anger toward others online, it can quickly escalate into problems in the real world. They also tend to think that what happens digitally “doesn’t count” and that digital abuse doesn’t hurt, especially since parents usually focus on their kids’ behavior in person…. (More on Time.com: Lessons on Cyberbullying: Is Rebecca Black a Victim? Experts Weigh In)

Take an interest in your kids’ online behavior. Kids tend to think their parents don’t know or care about their online lives. They fear that their parents, in not understanding, will simply take away their cell phone or computer if anything goes wrong….. (More on Time.com: The Tricky Politics of Tween Bullying)

Check school policies on cyberbullying. Contact your child’s teacher or a school social worker or administrator and find out whether there is an official policy on cyberbullying. If there is one, read it and discuss it with your kids.

If there isn’t a written policy in place, ask about how cyberbullying is handled and whether there are any plans to create an official policy. Better yet, step up and join — or push to create — a committee to set the standards…. (More on Time.com: Cyberbullying? Homophobia? Tyler Clementi’s Death Highlights Online Lawlessness)

Set guidelines about cell-phone use. Many parents give their kids cell phones, so they can stay in closer contact with them. But that’s typically not the reason kids want cell phones. Rather, kids use them to surf the Web, send text messages to friends, update their social-networking status, and share pictures and videos.

Review with your children the laws that could affect their cell phone use, including limitations on where and when they can legally take photos or videos, and how you expect them to handle text messaging or Internet use. If you choose to monitor what’s on your kids’ phones, be aware that more than 70% of kids delete messages or photos before giving their parents their phones for checks, according to research from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. (More on Time.com: A Glimmer of Hope in a Bad-News Survey About Bullying)

Help your children respond appropriately if they are cyberbullied. First, talk with your children about what happened and how they feel about it. Be supportive. Remember that your kids feel that they are under attack. Second, report the abuse to the website on which it occurred. This can often be done via an “abuse” or “report” button or link on the site. Lastly, report the bullying to school administrators and ask them to look after your children.                                                                                                                           http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/25/dealing-with-cyberbullying-5-essential-parenting-tips/

Parents must monitor their children’s use of technology.

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