Bystanders Join in Cyberbullying on Social Networking Sites: The Deindividuation and Moral Disengagement Perspectives
Cyberbullying on social networking sites escalates when bystanders join in the bullying. Bystanders’ joining-in behaviors reinforce the abuse, expose victims to a larger audience, and encourage further abuse by signaling their approval of the aggressive behavior. This study developed an integrative model that explains bystanders’ joining-in cyberbullying behaviors on SNSs to offer actionable insights into reducing such harmful behaviors. We tested the model using 1,179 responses using a scenario survey study. Our findings suggest that IT artifacts (including digital profile, search and privacy, relational ties, and network transparency) activated two key mechanisms that lead to cyberbullying joining-in behaviors: (i) the deindividuation experiences that attenuate self-identity and put salience on group/social identity, and (ii) the moral disengagement practices that permit the exercise of cognitive maneuvers to justify group-interested choices that do not align with social standard. The findings explain why people who do not know each other gang up to bully a target on social media. Platform owners who wish to discourage bystanders from joining in undesirable activities may consider regulating how users could share and access digital resources in a social network and should acknowledge the influence of social identity in igniting, driving, and prolonging harmful online group behaviors.
Author affiliationSchool of Business, University of Leicester
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