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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02413

To help or not to help: Intervening in cyberbullying among Chinese cyber-bystanders

  • 1The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Cyberbullying has become a serious concern among Internet users worldwide. However, relatively little is known about individuals who witness cyberbullying and how they behave. A bystander is someone who sees bullying or other forms of aggressive or violent behavior that targets someone else and who may choose to respond by either being part of the problem (a hurtful bystander) or part of the solution (a helpful bystander). Studies of face-to-face bullying in physical settings have demonstrated that bystanders can play an important role in accelerating or reducing bullying by intervening in either a negative (joining the bully) or positive (acting to stop the event) way. While little is known about the bystander phenomenon in an online context, it seems that bystander behavior (or witnessing and responding to online bullying) may be similar to the traditional bullying contexts. It is unclear, however, if this pattern is similar in online environments. Few studies examined the phenomena of cyber-bystanders in Chinese populations. Guided by the five step bystander theoretical model developed by Darley and Latané, (1970) and the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1991), this study, will address this gap to understand how the characteristics of cyber-bystanders predict their intervention in cyberbullying in a Chinese population.
There are two hypotheses: 1) Awareness of cyberbullying, attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control to intervene; and past experience with cyberbullying, felt responsibility, and self-efficacy to intervene will positively explain cyber-bystanders’ intention to intervene cyberbullying. 2) Cyber-bystanders’ intention to intervene cyberbullying will positively explain their intervening behavior and likelihood of defending the victim. About 450 college students will be invited via mass emails and flyers on campus to fill out an online questionnaire which measures the aforementioned variables. Structural Equation Models will be used to test the hypotheses, while age and gender will be included in the model as controlled variables. This proposed study will fill the gap in existing literature by examining the mechanisms of cyber bystanders’ behavior among Hong Kong Chinese college students. Findings of this study will provide a foundation for designing future intervention programmes to mobilize cyber-bystanders to “upstanders”.

Keywords: cyberbullying, cyber-bystanders, intervening behaviour, Chinese college students, Intention

Received: 05 Jul 2019; Accepted: 10 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Leung. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Angel Nga Man Leung, The Education University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, Hong Kong,