My Topics

9 January 2014

“If They Bully, I’ll Bully Too”: How Social Norms Relate To Teens’ Cyberbullying Behavior

Keywords: bullying, moral, peers, survey, teens, tweens, personality, personality characteristics, persuasion, resistance,

A Computers in Human Behavior study shows how important the social norm of peers is for teens’ cyberbullying behavior. Those teens who are surrounded by classmates who cyberbully and who often witness actual cyberbullying by peers are more inclined to cyberbully as well. The way teens think about and cope with immoral behavior also relate to their cyberbullying intentions.  

Take aways

  • Teens’ cyberbullying behavior is related to the social norms of their peers: The more cyberbullies they have in their class or the more they see other peers cyberbully, the more they are inclined to cyberbully themselves.
  • Teens who feel the urge to justify their immoral behavior (e.g., bullying, telling lies) or that of others are more inclined to cyberbully as well. 
  • Intervention developers should implement strategies in their programs for teens to cope with peer pressure, and other social influences. 

Study information

  • The question?

    What are the causes of teens’ cyberbullying intentions? 

  • Who?

    355 13- to 17- year olds (mean age: 14 years old; 56% were females)  

  • Where?

    Greece, Europe

  • How?

    This survey was part of a larger-scale European Project. Teens from two secondary schools in Greece (Athens and Thessaloniki) were asked about their cyberbullying intentions (i.e., whether they would intentionally and repeatedly harm a victim or a group of victims utilizing contemporary ICTs), moral disengagement (i.e., justification of their immoral behavior or that of others), and social norms (i.e., amount of classmates who cyberbully, actual cyberbullying behavior of peers). 

Facts and findings

  • Social norms are related to teens’ cyberbullying behavior. Specifically, teens were more inclined to cyberbully when:
    • they felt many of their classmates cyberbully;
    • they often witnessed their peers cyberbullying; 
    • they perceived themselves to be similar to peers who cyberbully; 
    • they felt the temptation to engage in cyberbullying in certain circumstances - for instance with friends who do so. 
  • Teens with high levels of moral disengagement - who often felt the need to justify their immoral behavior or that of others (e.g., “it is alright to fight to protect your friends”, “If kids fight and misbehave in school it is their teacher’s fault”) - were more inclined to cyberbully as well. 
  • This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (personal traits, moral disengagement and social norms of peers) and effect (cyberbullying intentions). The results only show that some are associated with teens’ cyberbullying intentions and cannot say anything about what causes what.