With the rise of internet and electronic technology, bullying has evolved from its traditional schoolyard setting to a more pernicious form: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is defined as “the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person” (Kidshealth, 2012). The diverse means include but are not limited to: text messages, phone calls, emails, social networking websites, chat rooms, and instant messenger services. Adolescents constitute the population most susceptible to aggressive and harassing online behavior whether as victims, perpetrators or witnesses. More often than not, the online identity directly transcribes offline social status and both influence each other in a chicken and egg dilemma. Cyberbullying is a major hindrance to the educative, psychological and social well-being of children; in extreme cases, it has led to depression, nervous breakdown and suicide. Meanwhile, unsuspecting parents bemoan their children’s constant use of a technology they see as addictive and,-ignorant of the dangers and prevalence cyberbullying- consider internet predators as a bigger threat. (In 2011, 33% of teenagers have been victims of online bullying according to the Cyberbullying Research Center). Cyberbullying has a viral nature, ergo, the repercussions of have a quicker and more permanent impact at a larger scale, are harder to quench and nearly impossible to contain. Identifying the persecutors is also much more difficult due to anonymity features and the possibility to create a fake online identity. Furthermore, the polymorphous aspect of technology renders cyberbullying boundless. As a result, the torment and oppression seem more constant. Nonetheless, online bullying is as much a group process as traditional bullying: it involves a community, and an audience whose “silence implies consent”; whether one perceives them as passive bullies, indifferent spectators, unsympathetic enablers or helpers, bystanders are a critical component of cyberbullying. Examining the peculiarity of bystander effect in the context of internet bullying is thus crucial in developing insight for preventing cyberbullying.
The “Bystander effect” refers to situations whereby the presence of others inhibits helping. It stems from the discovery that, against all odds, an individual’s likelihood of providing help to a victim in an emergency situation decreases when other people are present. The phenomenon is epitomized in Catherine "Kitty" Genovese’s assault and murder case: on March 13, 1964, the 28 year old woman was stabbed to death seventeen times, near her home in Kew Gardens, (Queens) New York City. Her entire ordeal lasts 32 minutes before the eyes of 38 witnesses yet not one of them took the trouble to intervene despite her cries for help. Eventually -35 minutes after the beginning of the assault-, one of the witnesses calls the police. Alas, it was too late: she succumbed to her injuries in the...