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Why don’t we offer the same help to all victims of cyberbullying?

Raquel António, Rita Guerra e Carla Moleiro, Centro de Investigação e Intervenção Social, CIS-Iscte – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Portugal;
Projeto selecionado no concurso para apoiar projetos de investigação sobre a realidade social dos jovens em Portugal (FP22-1)

Bullying rarely occurs without an audience and can be considered a group phenomenon, rather than just a personal behaviour. Evidence suggests that previous contact between different social groups increases bystanders’ helping intentions in bullying episodes. However, less is known about the potential positive effects of intergroup factors on bystanders’ behaviours when witnessing cyberbullying based on one’s social identity or group membership.

The online survey conducted with 4,507 Portuguese youth as part of the TURN_ON HELP project, which aimed at understanding cyberbullying towards different minority groups, namely LGBTI+ and Black youth, showed that bystanders’ responses varied depending on the target of the cyberbullying, helping an LGBTI+ youth victim less than a Black one.

This research can contribute to the development of theoretical approaches for understanding what promotes bystanders’ helping intentions in bias-based cyberbullying episodes, as well as to the development of specific interventions to foster helping behaviours among youth.
Key points
  • 1
       In the past six months, 18% of participants reported experiencing cyberbullying. The experience of cyberbullying was more common among youth who self-identified as female, Transgender and Gender-Diverse (TGGD), non-heterosexual, belonging to an ethnic minority, and having lower socioeconomic status.
  • 2
       Participants who observed an episode of cyberbullying targeting an LGBTI+ youth revealed fewer helping intentions, less empathy, less positive group norms, less inclusive identities, less positive attitudes, and more intergroup anxiety, compared to those who observed an episode of cyberbullying targeting a Black youth.
  • 3
       Having LGBTI+ friends and perceiving Heterosexual and LGBTI+ people as part of the same inclusive group was associated with increased helping intentions, by increasing empathy.
  • 4
       Having Black friends and perceiving White and Black people as part of the same inclusive group was associated with increased helping intentions, by increasing empathy and positive group norms

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