Combating bullies in the online playground

Combating bullies in the online playground
Part of the solution, Ms Patterson says, is to increase bystander intervention in online bullying. Credit: iStock

Bystanders who see school-yard bullying can intervene and stop it in about 10 seconds but when aggression moves online, young cyber peer groups become unsure of what to do.

An estimated one in 10 Australian teenagers experiences cyberbullying.

Research shows while it is less common than face-to-face bullying, it effects can be much more severe, resulting in suicide and self-harm.

Onlookers are less likely to involve themselves with online bullying because they have difficulty working out the context of comments without and tone to help, Edith Cowan University PhD student Lisa Patterson says.

In addition there are no authority figures in the online world for support.

Ms Patterson interviewed 24 Perth school students aged 13 to 16 about the role of bystanders in physical school bullying and cyberbullying.

As part of the study they were asked what they'd do in a hypothetical scenario where a school colleague (Sam) has posted nasty comments about another colleague on social media, saying he is 'ugly, weird and annoying.'

They were asked if their response would be different if it happened at school.

"They [the colleagues] could ignore it more online because if they don't really like Sam they could just 'miss' his post – but at it would be out in the playground," one participant said at the time.

Part of the solution, Ms Patterson says, is to increase bystander intervention in online bullying.

She says peers should speak-out and say what's said or shared is wrong.

If they fear being targeted, they should support the victim in private.

If they feel someone is at risk, they should seek the advice of a trusted adult and never forward negative comments or content, she says.

"The bystander behaviours should be prosocial or positive in nature rather than negative behaviours such as being abusive or retaliating, which often only inflames the situation and may make matters worse," Ms Patterson says.

The research shows that when young people ask adults for advice with online bullying, their solution is often to take away the media or denigrate its use.

Ms Patterson says it is more helpful for adults to help children formulate rules about what is acceptable online behaviour and good responses to unacceptable behaviour.

Victims of face-to-face have an escape, by moving to a safe place but cyberbullying infiltrates even those safe places, Ms Patterson says.


Explore further

Cyberbullying hurts everyone including bystanders

More information: Lisa J. Patterson et al. Adolescent bystanders' perspectives of aggression in the online versus school environments, Journal of Adolescence (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.02.003
Provided by Science Network WA

This article first appeared on ScienceNetwork Western Australia a science news website based at Scitech.

Citation: Combating bullies in the online playground (2016, April 12) retrieved 21 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-04-combating-bullies-online-playground.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
8 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 13, 2016
Have you ever been the target of a bully who makes fun of you or one of your friends to make other people laugh?

If so why do you personally laugh, when it's someone else being bullied? Not only that but you laugh in front of your kids. Teaching them that they to can make people laugh by bullying others.

What am I getting at? We watch the people we call entertains on tv and clubs make fun of other people so they can get a laugh and make money doing it. Which of you hasn't see Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump imitated like this, and laughed? We are the perpetrators of bullying. And it won't stop till we say "No More" as a society..

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more