The Social Psychology of the Cyberbully: What Parents Need to Know to Empower Their Child

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GB1-cyberbullyOur town was recently devastated by another tragic teenage suicide. The pain that has rippled from this event is staggering. And once again, there’s some evidence that cyberbullying played a roll. Choose to take action instead of standing by today and make a difference for somebody. Parents and kids will be better prepared to protect themselves (and others) by understanding these social psychology principles. Would your child help a peer being attacked online?

No parent believes his or her child is capable of being a cyberbully, or a willing bystander. But unfortunately, parents are often the last to know about their child’s mistakes. Understanding the social psychology behind cyberbullying will help you better empower your kids to do the right thing.

The Bystander Effect

The psychological principal The Bystander Effect, also referred to as the diffusion of responsibility, refers to the phenomenon of how an individual is less likely to respond or delay response to a person in distress if there are other onlookers. The larger the number of bystanders, the less likely individual intervention occurs. In other words, people tend to look to others for action instead of taking action themselves.

The most commonly cited illustration of The Bystander Effect is the case of Catherine “Kitty” Geovese. Kitty was a young woman who was brutally attacked and stabbed by an assailant in New York City in 1964. Despite the fact that as many as 37 people witnessed the crime from their windows and heard Kitty screaming for help, nobody actively intervened and several minutes passed before anybody called the police. One man however did yell, “Let that girl alone!” causing her assailant to flee and Kitty to crawl to the door of her apartment.

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