Why do teens forward nasty messages on WhatsApp?
Cyber aggressive behaviors, such as the forwarding of nasty messages, frequently take place in teenagers’ WhatsApp groups. A study published in Social Development examines why teens engage in such behaviors. Results show that perceived pressure to engage in group behavior is an important explanation for cyber aggressive behavior.
- The more teens identify with their peers in a WhatsApp group, the more likely they are to go along with the behaviors of these peers.
- Teens go along with cyber aggressive behaviors (such as forwarding nasty messages) because they perceive pressure to do so.
- Reducing teens' sense of social identification with their peers in a WhatsApp group could be an effective strategy to reduce their conformance with group behavior. Intervention developers could use this strategy to reduce cyber-aggressive behavior among teens.
647 teenagers between 10 and 16 years old (mean age: 12.9 years old, 51.5% boys)
The participants completed a survey in which they answered questions about one of their existing WhatsApp groups. These questions were about social identification with the WhatsApp group members (for example, “I feel a bond with [WhatsApp group]”, perceived social pressure to conform (for example, “I have felt pressured by [WhatsApp group] to forward a picture on WhatsApp of someone that I know without their permission”, and actual conformity to WhatsApp group norms (for example, “I have forwarded a picture of someone that I know without their permission because [WhatsApp group] urged me”.
Facts and findings
- WhatsApp was the most frequently used social media platform among the teens who participated in this study.
- The majority of the teens (roughly 80%) reported that cyber aggression had occurred in their WhatsApp group at least once.
- Teens who judged their WhatsApp group as highly important to them, perceived more pressure to conform to group norms than teens who judged their group as less important.
- This perceived pressure to conform led to actual conformity to cyber aggressive behaviors.