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Aggress Behav. 2014 Sep-Oct;40(5):383-96. doi: 10.1002/ab.21534. Epub 2014 May 16.

Personal characteristics and contextual factors that determine "helping," "joining in," and "doing nothing" when witnessing cyberbullying.

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Department of Communication Studies, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium.


In this article, we investigated several determinants of bystanders' reactive behaviors when confronted with cyberbullying using self-reported data from 2,333 Flemish 9-16 year olds. Structural equation modeling showed that adolescents that had joined in on the cyberbullying were older, had lower levels of empathy and were more likely to have been involved in cyberbullying or traditional bullying as perpetrators. Adolescents who had helped the victim were younger, had higher levels of empathy and were more likely to have been a victim of cyberbullying or traditional bullying in the past months. Adolescents that did nothing when they witnessed cyberbullying, were also older, showed lower levels of empathy and were less likely to have been a victim of traditional bullying. Social anxiety was not related to joining in, helping and remaining passive. In the second part of the analysis, we found that bystanders' passive behavior could be explained in more detail by moral disengagement theory and other contextual factors. In the discussion, the implications of the findings for research on cyberbullying are addressed.


adolescents; bystanders; cyberbullying; empathy; moral disengagement

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