Cyber Bullying and the Bystander Effect

Cyber Bullying and the Bystander Effect

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According to Stopbullying.gov, cyber bullying is bullying that happens using the internet or electronic technology. Just like regular bullying, cyber bullying involves an aggressive act performed by a person that has (or that is perceived to have) more power toward a person that has (or that is perceived to have) less power. Bullying is repetitive and purposeful. It can include name calling, threats to cause harm and spreading rumors. 

What Are Schools Doing to Prevent Bullying?

Nearly all schools take some measure to educate students about bullying and to prevent them from bullying their peers. Teachers talk about bullying in students’ health classes. Schools hold special programs and assemblies to educate students about the importance of not bullying. It all goes to enforce to students that bullying is wrong, hurtful and unacceptable. But if students know these things, why does it still happen?

Despite all the education that students receive about bullying, bullying still exists both at school and online. While anti-bullying measures demonstrate the school’s best intentions, The Total Bully Solution points out that too often school’s best efforts frequently don’t work. There are several reasons why people continue to bully when they know it is wrong. There are also several reasons why other students witnessing the bullying do not put a stop to it.

What is the Bystander Effect?

The bystander effect is what happens when people do not step in to help when they see another person being bullied or being placed in some type of danger. Named after the infamous stabbing of Kitty Genovese in 1964, the term “the bystander effect” refers to the tendency of people to not help in an emergency situation when other people are present.

According to social experiments done by Bibb Latané and John Darley, if one person witnesses an emergency situation where someone needs assistance, they are likely to help. They feel responsible for helping because they know if they do not help, no one else is around to do so.

GroupThink

Something strange happens when a group of people watch an emergency take place, however. Instead of rushing to help, people look at those around them to gauge their reactions. If no one else reacts, people rationalize not helping by saying that it is socially acceptable to not help or that someone else will help. They do not feel so responsible.

How Does the Bystander Effect Affect People who Witness Cyber Bullying?

People who witness cyber bullying online know that they are not the only people to see it. They feel removed from the situation and they figure that because so many people see the bullying taking place, they are not personally responsible for doing something to stop it. As a result, cyber bullies are able to continually harass their victims with no repercussions because no one intervenes. While it would be helpful if internet service providers were able to monitor online bullying, the best bully prevention techniques start at home.

How Can People Overcome the Bystander Effect?

The best way to overcome the bystander effect is to educate people about it. If people realize that they are in a large group of people who are not likely to help, they will be motivated to be the person that does help.

Sources:

http://emergingcenter.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/bullying-and-the-bystander-effect/
http://www.stopbullying.gov/
http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/bystander-effect

About the author: Nikki Longo is a writer based off the east coast. When she’s not writing at the desk that overlooks the beautiful tree in her backyard she can be found playing with her dogs or cooking up a new recipe. Feel free to reach out to her at nikkiblogsallday@gmail.com

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