Apr 16

Violence in New York Schools

Recently, a class action suit has been filed against the New York City Education Department alleging that violence in schools has increased to the point that it is impeding students’ constitutional rights to an education. The complaint was filed last Wednesday by eleven students and their families as well as a pro-charter advocacy group named Families for Excellent Schools. The suit claims that school violence has increased and that the violence is more often than not against minority students as well as members of the LGBT community. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio refutes these claims stating that the major violence in schools is actually down 14.29 percent (Harris, 2016). In many ways this conflict is representative of the challenges discussed by Limber (2004) in regards to the difficulty of implementing comprehensive bullying prevention programs. Quite often, the integral players cannot agree on the severity of the problem, and that assumes that they can agree that a problem even exists (Limber, 2004).

Limber (2004) named that one of the biggest barriers to adopting a successful program is resistance from school staff and parents. That resistance often stems from a lack of awareness regarding the actual statistics of bullying in schools. In the case of the New York City Education Department, things are further complicated because people on either side of the argument are using different sets of data to argue their points. Mayor de Blasio bases his claims that the schools are in fact less violent on figures drawn from a database run by the New York Police Department that tracks any occurrence where a member of the police department is involved. This data does not include any acts of violence that were witnessed by teachers or students where the police were not called or notitified. Families for Excellent Schools, one of the parties in the class action suit, base their opinions on data drawn from New York State which includes any incidents reported by school administrators regardless of whether the police were involved. Some question the validity of this data as there is not a clear distinction between minor incidents and serious complaints and the data is not always verified. However, this data suggests that violence in schools actually rose 23 percent (Harris, 2016).

This highlights the need for unbiased and empirical data prior to the implementation of any intervention. From an applied social psychological perspective, before any intervention can take place, they would first need to do a thorough needs assessment to determine if there truly is a problem. Then they would need to take the time to understand the precipitating factors, or the things that led to the violence in the schools in the first place, as well as the perpetuating factors which have sustained that violence. Only then can they hope to implement any kind of strategy to address the reduction of violent acts (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012).

The New York City Education Department could benefit from implementing a program similar to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. One of the biggest issues facing New York appears to be a lack of consistency in how acts of violence are defined, addressed, and reported. The Olweus program would address those issues by developing school-wide, and potentially district-wide, rules against bullying. The program would also provide a framework for how those incidents can and should be reported, as well as the appropriate actions that should follow each act of violence (Limber, 2004). If nothing else, the program would provide consistent information so they can later determine whether acts of violence are in fact increasing or decreasing. Additionally, a key component of the program is to encourage participation between the school, parents, and the community (Limber, 2004). This could help to bridge the apparent gap between the New York City Education Department and the families and communities they serve.



Harris, E. A. (2016, April 7). New York Education Dept. is sued over violence in schools. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/08/nyregion/new-york-education-dept-is-sued-over-violence-in-schools.html

Limber, S. P. (2004). Implementation of the Olweus bullying prevention program in American schools: Lessons learned from the field. In Bullying in American schools: A social-ecological perpective on prevention and intervention (pp. 351-363). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.


Apr 16

Too Much Time Isn’t a Bad Thing

stelmeA family member once said to me, “You shouldn’t spend so much time with your daughter; it will cause her to be awful for other people to watch!” Even though watching my daughter may be challenging for some, I feel the time spent with her is beneficial for our relationship and her growth into adulthood.

Secure attachment style is known for causing infants to be unhappy when their attachment figure is away and smoothed quickly once they return (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). When a child is left, they experience separation and they only gain attachment with one or two specific people. It is believed that the form of attachment a child has as an infant will reflect what kind of attachment style they will have when they turn into an adult.

The other forms of attachment are the insecure attachment styles. One is considered anxious and ambivalent where the infant acts unhappy about being separated but are still clingy whenever the figure would return (Schneider, et al,. 2012). The other form consists of avoidance, where the infant acts as if they were not worried about the presence or absence of the attachment figure (Schneider, et al,. 2012).

Those who have a secure attachment are often found to have a positive self-concept (Brookes, 2011). They believe in themselves, in a sense and are able to determine things for themselves. They are also able to regulate their emotions and not become overwhelmed by them (Brookes, 2011). Another benefit is they are able to make positive assumptions about others and the can engage in altruistic or prosocial behavior (Brookes, 2011). For instance, they are capable of expressing appreciation, gratitude, comfort, and volunteer themselves.

Children who experience insecure attachment as infants, often result in social difficulties. They are misbehaved, aggressive, bullied or easily bullied by others, and do not listen to authority figures (Long Term Effects of Attachment, 2011). These children have a difficult time sharing with others and are less curious about learning new things. They have a low self-confidence and have a hard time displaying their emotions (Long Term Effects of Attachment, 2011).

However, as Schneider (2012) explained, whatever attachment style one has had, during their infant stages, there is always the possibility to unlearn that behavior and build a new form of attachment. Therefore, even though an individual did not choose their form of attachment with their caregivers; they have the power to change it as they grow into adulthood.

Now, looking back on the statement that once had me concerned; I don’t feel the need to change the amount of time I spend with my daughter. In fact, I want to embrace it!


Brookes, L. (2011, May 17). The Benefits of a Secure Attachment. Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://loveandlifetoolbox.com/the-benefits-of-a-secure-attachment/
Long Term Effects of Attachment. (2011, August 2). Retrieved April 7, 2016, from https://parentingandattachment.wordpress.com/long-term-effects-of-attachment/

Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (2012). Foundations of Applied Social Psychology. In Applied Social Psychology (2nd ed.). SAGE.

Apr 16

Good is Beautiful. Beautiful is Good.

I always wondered when I saw people with certain people or a friend of mine is a pen pal with an inmate, what does that person see in the other? Why is that what I see as ugly or bad, someone else can see good or beauty in them? Why do people want to date someone in jail or someone with a criminal history? why would anyone marry someone who has done evil and bad in their lives?

I have a friend, I will call her Melanie. Melanie was an addict, a stripper, an escort and an all around just ugly bodied person. For some reason men flocked to her. She was physically beautiful; nice eyes, teeth, smile, nice body: the perfect girl. I guess I am not the only person to question why this happens. In one study by Julio Gonzalez-Alverez (2015), this question was the topic. Do men dissociate sexual attraction from moral judgment more than women? The findings were what I expected. During the experiment men and women were asked to rate attractiveness of photos of the opposite sex. These photos were paired with a sentence about the person or something they had done. ie: this person rehabilitates hurt owls before sending them back into the wild or this person laughs at children when they fall at the playground. It was found that men were more likely to dismiss morality when rating the photos of the women and instead focused just on their physical appearance. Women were more likely to see someone they thought as beautiful before to be ugly after reading the sentences of the person’s morality. So do men dissociate sexual attraction from moral judgement more than women? The answer as found in this study is yes! That explains why men loved Melanie even though every fiber of my being was thinking she was disgusting.


González‐Álvarez, J. (2015). Men dissociate sexual attraction from moral judgement more than women. International Journal of Psychology, doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1002/ijop.12228

Apr 16


Attachment is the connection that an individual develops during the first year of life (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). The attachment style varies depending upon the level of sensitivity and responsiveness that was provided in the first year of life by a caregiver. Attachment styles can range from, secure, preoccupied, fearful and dismissing.

A secure attachment is an attachment style that is developed when the caregiver was extremely sensitive and responsive to the baby’s needs. The outcome of this attachment is that the child will grow up to be trusting, and comfortable with maintaining relationships with others. Individuals who have secure attachments also tend to be very independent (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).

Individuals who have a preoccupied attachment, are individuals whose caregivers may have been sensitive and responsive, but not consistently. Individuals who have this type of attachment usually feel the need to constantly want to be close to others. They are very independent and they want close relationships, because they tend to be worried about abandonment(Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).

An individual with a fearful attachment tends to be distrustful of others. They also seek close relationships with others because they fear being abandoned, however they do not do very well with maintaining these relationships from their end. They are likely to be this way because they experienced either a neglectful or in some circumstances an abusive caregiver. This is not always the case but it is a possibility. They sometimes perceive that others will abandon them because it is possible that’s what they experienced with their caregiver.

The last attachment is, dismissing. A dismissing attachment style is where the individual tends to be self-reliant, and independent. Though these characteristics sound great, the reasons behind them are not. An individual who tends to be completely self-reliant and independent is usually this way because they have no interest in developing intimate relationships. This usually occurs because they were not able to develop an intimate relationship with their caregiver. This could mean that the caregiver was not always present or that when they were present they did not show any sensitivity or seem to be responsive to the child’s needs (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).

Although these attachments are developed within the first year of life, they are present throughout the entire lifespan. Our attachments reflect in how we maintain our relationships and friendships. It can also play a role in how we parent our children. Needless to say the development of an attachment between the child and caregiver is extremely important. With that being said, it is also important to understand that attachments can be changed. Attachment styles are shaped by experiences, unsuccessful behaviors can become those of the past with awareness and effort to build better relationships.

Disclaimer: This information should not be used to try and label the attachment style your boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, or any one for that matter. Attachment styles can only be properly studied in an experiment called the Strange Situation, developed by Mary Ainsworth. If you would like to see how the strange situation is done you can watch the video below. =)

Schneider,F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied SocialPsychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nded.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


Apr 16

A Bullying Story: Pessimism Turned to Optimism

I missed at least thirty days of my senior year of high school. I started the year with the seven or eight close friends I always had. Then, one of them decided she wanted to spread unbelievably false rumors about me, causing the loss of my friendship with her and two other friends. Following this difficult time, I finally had my fill of a teacher who mercilessly picked on me all semester, and went to the principle about him. An investigation was brought against him by the school for his treatment of me and other students (as well as several other indiscretions), and he was fired. I was put into another class, but because a lot of people were getting easy A’s with this teacher, I lost the rest of my friends except for one. That is when I started staying home from school, and eating my lunch in my mom’s office when I did attend (my mom is a secretary at the school).

Throughout this horrible year, I frequently bounced between optimism and pessimism (but mostly pessimism). It was quite difficult for me to see my future as positive when I went from having a lot of friends who supposedly cared about me to eating lunch at my mom’s desk. In other words, I had negative outcome expectancies rather than positive ones (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012). Since I didn’t see any point in carrying on a social life at school, I gave up and would just stay home. While my situation was already bleak beyond my control, I made it worse by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy; I expected the situation to get worse, so it did (Schneider et al., 2012). In a survey study by Hunter, Boyle and Warden, it was found that victims of school bullying are more likely to feel as though they have less control of their lives (2007). Furthermore, students who are bullied are more apt to use emotion-focused coping than problem-focus coping, making their attempts to overcome the situation less effective (Hunter et al., 2007). While pessimists are often blamed for their situations (and they do have some fault), it is more complicated than that; it is a vicious cycle of bullying which reinforces negative outcome expectancies, which reinforce the situation outcome, etc.

I certainly fit this mold when I was eighteen, though I became more optimistic toward the end of my senior year. Rather than seeing my situation as permanent, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel as graduation grew ever near. I began to make unstable attributions to my situation at school, as I knew this was definitely a temporary thing and I would be done soon (Schneider et al., 2012). As I slowly changed my way of thinking, I actually started to feel happy again. I started hanging out frequently with my one good friend, and started to smile at school again. Oddly enough, when those who would pick on me saw that smile, they started to leave me alone. What is even more special about the end of that year is that the principle was aware of my situation, and decided to have the school adopt strict bullying policies. According to my mom, in any case of severe and persistent bullying, the perpetrator is expelled. While this makes me happy, I only wish this policy had been in place when I was in high school.

While the scare tactic of expulsion certainly does work, high schools would probably be more benefitted by a program like the Olweus Prevention Program. It gets everyone involved, and has programs that are school-wide, class-focused and individualized (Limber, 2004). At the very least, active participation on the students’ and teachers’ parts would bring more awareness to the situation of bullying, rather than just the threat of being expelled. Such a program not only forces bullies to examine their own behavior and see its effect on others, but the teachers are taught how to better their strategies for intervening and helping victims. Even though my own high school never had this kind of program, and even though I had a horrible experience, it did not adversely affect the rest of my life. I am a happy person, I have a great life, and nothing matters less to me than high school. However, the fact that bullying and mean-heartedness still persist is something that every one of us should care about.


Limber, S. (2004). Implementation of the olweus bullying prevention program in american schools: Lessons learned from the field. 351-363.

Hunter, S.C., Boyle, J.E., & Warden, D. (2007). Perceptions and correlates of peer-victimization and bullying. British Journal of Educational Psychology. 77. 797-810.

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied social psychology:
Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Apr 16

The Dangerous Rates of Cyber-Bullying


Cyber-bullying rates have increased significantly over the past several years due to the high creation of technology. Bullies are no longer confined to picking on other kids on the school playground. Today, most bullies are refraining from physical assaults and dodging responses by bashing individuals via email, social media, instant messaging, and other online platforms. According to the article cyber bullying statistics 2014, 25% of teenagers report that they have experienced repeated bullying via their cell phone or on the internet. Over half, which is 52% of young individuals report being cyber bullied. This means that half of the bullying of young individuals is occurring online for the whole online community to witness. 33% of the individuals who have reported being cyber bullied have also reported that their bullies have issued online threats. Both bullies and cyber bullies turn to hate speech to victimize their target. One-tenth of all middle school and high school students have been on the receiving end of hate terms hurled against them. 95% of teens who witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behavior. Cyber bullying affects all races and boys are more likely to be threatened by cyber bullies than girls. More than half of the individuals they have surveyed say that they never confide in their parents when cyber bullying happens to them.

The sad part about cyber bullying is that the people who love the individuals who are being cyber bullied often don’t know what to do to help. With the high rate of cyber-bullying provided there are several ways to prevent it and decrease the rate of cyber-bullying. The awareness of cyber-bullying needs to be recognized. Not many individuals are aware of it nor take it as seriously as they should. Individuals need to talk to teens about cyber-bullying, explain why it is wrong and how it can have serious consequences. Parents need to take action over their children who choose to bully other individuals. Parents need to make a rule that teens do not send mean or damaging messages, even if someone else started it or they will lose their cell phone and computer privileges for a time. Encouraging teens to report incidents of cyber bullying to an adult will decrease the likelihood of cyber-bullying.

Parents should take the appropriate steps to console their children who are victims of cyber-bullying. Victims should start by changing their cell phone number and contact the provider to block the bully from contact. As far as social media goes the victim should block the perpetrator from all accounts. I would suggest the parent taking their child for therapy to deal with their emotions in a positive way. Parents should also take the bullying issue to the school’s attention to take the proper pre-cautions if the perpetrator causing the cyber-bullying attends the victims school. A parent who takes the proper steps in making their child feel safe will create an open communication between them.

References: http://nobullying.com/cyber-bullying-statistics-2014/

Apr 16

A Sense of Community

One of the interesting aspects of community and social psychology is the idea behind a sense of community. Our text describes a sense of community as the factors that determine whether people view their community in a positive or in a negative way (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). My husband and I have moved several times throughout our marriage and as a personal observation, I am much more adaptable to communities than my husband is. There have been several communities that I felt comfortable in, but he could not settle into. Part of his difficulties stem from being raised in a small town, while some of his other difficulties come from his PTSD.

According to McMillan and Chavis (1986), there are four elements that help someone to develop a sense of community. The first element is membership. Membership is easy to gain, as it is simply the idea that you can determine membership based on boundaries. However, my husband doesn’t feel membership in our current community. We lucked out and made friends with someone who happened to be preparing to rent out their home that was two blocks from my parents. This put us into a neighborhood that had people who general come from a higher income bracket. So although we live in this community, my husband struggles to feel membership because of the disparity of income between the majority of our neighbors and ourselves.

The second element is influence. This refers to how much the individual feels they have an impact on their community. There are ways to get involved in my community, but it is difficult. We have put our children into a charter school, so our children go to a different school than most of those in our neighborhood. We are not members of the Homeowner’s Association (though our landlord is), so we cannot recommend or have much impact on any change through that association. We have a very anal retentive Homeowner’s Association, and have already received notices for little things like leaving our trash bins out an extra night. This adds to us both feeling as though we have little control within our community, which makes this element very difficult to have.

The third element is the integration and fulfillment of needs. This relies on the members of a community being interdependent. Our community is full of large houses with attached garages. Most of our neighbors come and go through their garages. Because it is in the desert, there isn’t much as far as gardening, so we don’t see our neighbors outside. Most of the kids in our neighborhood are involved in extra-curricular activities, so we don’t even see them out playing. This makes integration difficult. There are events that the Homeowner’s Association has to help create opportunities to develop that sense of community, but unfortunately, those are few and far between. The only place where I have felt a sense of community is through social media. There is a Facebook group for my community that allows people to communicate about events, post business ads for local businesses, post about crimes, and for people to rant about things in the neighborhood. It is through this format that I have developed a small sense of integration. My husband doesn’t pay attention to these, and therefore has missed out.

The final element is a shared emotional connection. There is a cohesive bong between members of a community. As I described with the integration, it is difficult to build that bond with the limited interaction between community members.

I have found a community connection within my work place. There I have a membership, I feel as though I have an influence, we share values and integrate well with each other, and we often share emotional connections. My husband struggles with relationships. He struggles to find these communities. When we lived in California, we were in a very strong community. It was easy to feel member ship because everyone used the same grocery store and saw each other there. Everyone was able to make an impact in the community. I was able to make my impact by working at the local school. My husband made an impact in the ranching community by breeding ducks and rabbits. There was a lot of interdependence within our community. People shared “hand-me-downs” as well as home-grown fruits and vegetables. When a young girl was killed within our community, the community drew together and mourned, even those who did not know her. It was during that event that I saw how tight the community was, but we were part of it.

A sense of community is important. Research suggests that finding a place that develops that sense of community helps a person to develop their identity. The place that we live can affect our identity through effecting whether we feel unique in our living space, in control of our living space, if our living space makes us feel good about ourselves, and if where we live is consistent with our ideals of our own personality (Anton & Lawrence, 2014). These four principles of identity that our living space can effect are guiding principles of the identity process theory.


Anton, C., & Lawrence, C. (2014). Home is where the heart is: The effect of place of residence on place attachment and community participation. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 40, 451-461. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1016/j.jenvp.2014.10.007

McMillan, D., & Chavis, D. (1986). Sense of commmunity: Definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 6-23.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology (Second Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE publications.

Apr 16

Community Psychology and School Integration

Recently, there was an op-ed piece in the The New York Times opinion pages about school integration (Potter & Quick, 2016).  School integration can easily be discussed under the topics of education, or intergroup relations and diversity, but in many ways it is a community issue. In fact, the core arguments surrounding school integration incorporate the values and approaches of community psychology. Particularly, the article, and the broader topic of integration, involve many core values of community psychology such as sense of community, social justice, and citizen participation and empowerment, to name a few (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

The article discusses the increasingly apparent trend of racial and socioeconomic segregation of schools, due in no small part to such segregation within communities. Potter and Quick (2016) highlight the fact that many schools resist integration efforts as they see it as the responsibility of the communities rather than the responsibility of the schools. In essence, they feel as though communities need to be more integrated, which will in turn lead to the schools becoming more integrated. Some schools, however, have taken steps to change enrollment practices in order to promote integration and diversity (Potter & Quick, 2016). While this may promote the inclusion of previously marginalized populations, could this negatively impact a person’s sense of community? If students are being bused out of their neighborhoods in order to attend more diverse schools, they may unfortunately lose the sense of membership within their own communities. For that reason, it would be the role of community psychologists to balance the need for diversity and the need for a strong and positive sense of community (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

Potter and Quick (2016) discussed a ruling made by the Pinellas County school board to use increased reliance on residential patterns to determine school zones. This move resulted in thousands of black students, who previously enjoyed the benefits of integration, to be relocated to underperforming schools (Potter & Quick, 2016). This goes against community psychology’s goal of social justice. Social justice refers to the need for equitable distribution of resources within a community, in this case, fair access to equal education (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Due to an increased focus on residential patterns, the Pinellas County school board failed to protect the rights of minority students within the community (Potter & Quick, 2016).

Another aspect of community psychology that lays at the heart of this issue is the need for citizen participation and empowerment. In many ways, the citizens in these segregated communities have to find a way to gain control and actively seek out ways to promote both racial and socioeconomic integration, not only within their schools, but within their neighborhoods. They need to find ways to gather strength in numbers to advocate for themselves and their children. The empowerment of the members of the community, particularly those who have been marginalized, is paramount in the efforts of community psychologists (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012).

If we address the issue of de facto segregation in schools as a community issue, we are so much more likely to see real change. It is an issue of education as well as intergroup relations and diversity, but one that requires the participation of the community to promote social activism. By developing collaborative relationships with the community, and promoting social programs based on empirical evidence, community psychologists can encourage a stronger sense of community as well as promoting the formation of schools that reflect the rich cultural and socioeconomic diversity of our country.


Potter, H., & Quick, K. (2016, February 23). The secret to school integration. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/opinion/the-secret-to-school-integration.html?_r=0

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.


Apr 16

Where is our sense of belongingness?

In 2012, I was sitting on the shinkansen in Tokyo Japan.  I was on my way to work and as I finally settled down in a vacant seat, I looked up and what I saw astonished me. Everyone and I mean everyone was on their smart phones. (texting, surfing the web, watching a video etc.)  From 60 year old grandma to children as young as elementary kids were starring at their phone.  Fast forward to 2015, I was visiting a very busy doctor’s office with my mother and as I open the door to the clinic everyone in the waiting room was either on their Smartphone or tablet.  No one was speaking to each other and was totally absorbed by their own virtual world.  Yes, I admit I am at times guilty of this as well but I am still pretty “old fashioned” and enjoy an occasional conversation with a stranger.   I remember thinking to myself, “how can any of this be healthy?” All humans are social creatures. (Aronson 2007)  As social animals, we all need social relationships and feel a sense of belongingness.  In other words, the feeling of sense of community.  The advancement of technology has robbed us from proximity.  Having the accessibility or nearness to develop and building interpersonal liking to another individual in the real world. (Schneider)  As I recently read a relationship article teaching couples rules and things to be aware of when texting.  The article suggest that many couples may be using “texting” as their main source of communication instead of face to face.

Although a new community has developed in the virtual world it has decreased our real world social contact and possibly decreases our overall sense of well being.  Re-shaping our values and philosophical goals as a community.  A couple of years ago in Taiwan a truck were transporting a rhinoceros from one location to the other.  For some reason, the rhino either jumped or fell off the truck resulting in severe injury. The rhinoceros was obviously bleeding and was crying in pain but nobody was helping or doing anything but taking pictures or recording.  In the video that someone later posted on YouTube, some people were even laughing at the poor animal.  Yes, I know it’s not every day that we see a rhinoceros on the side of the street but come on!

The feeling of belongingness in the virtual world is slowing taking over the real world.  I think we will see many changes and reshaping of societies, communities and individual interaction.  Personally I am a bit scared and uncertain of how we are all going to deal and cope with this change but I know we will all eventually adapt.


Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Apr 16

Cyberbullying & Bystanders

The bystander effect is present in offline communities, however, is this negative behavior present online? Based on Brody and Vangelisti’s (2016) study on cyberbullying, the bystander effect may play a role in affecting a fairly new type of community, the Internet. I won’t rewrite the entire article here, but I will provide some interesting information gathered by Brody and Vangeliti (2016). Almost one-hundred percent of students who are four-year college undergraduates are online on a daily basis, while eighty-six percent are part of a “social networking site” (Smith, Rainie, & Zickuhr, 2011). The more technological devices are utilized, the more exposed people may be to negative situations such as cyberbullying. In fact, a rising number of bullied students in college, fifty-percent at the time of Kowalski, Giumetti, Schroeder, & Reese’s (2012) research, have been accounted for. In order to better comprehend and anticipate “communication” in situations involving cyberbullying behavior, Brody and Vangelisti (2016) examined the potential influence of “presence of bystanders, anonymity, and relational closeness” on bystander’s actions during a cyberbullying event.

In Brody and Vangelisti’s (2016) second study, which was conducted in order to cover issues and limitations with their first study, three hundred and seventy nine students who were undergrads were recruited, with one hundred and nineteen of them being male and two hundred and sixty of them being female. The participants’ ages spanned from eighteen to fifty years old, with most of them being Caucasian, and the rest including Native American, Middle Eastern, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and other.

Participants were provided with a scene in which cyberbullying was read by them (Brody & Vangelisiti, 2016). Scenes involving victims of identical sex to the participant were also read. While participants read the scene, they were instructed to picture themselves as the “observer” in the occurrence. Afterwards, participants finished a survey online. The relationship between the participant and the victim, visual anonymity, and the amount of bystanders were inspected by researchers. Whether or not the participant was signed in to chat on Facebook and “visible” to the cyberbully and/or victim was modified in order manipulate visual anonymity, while the amount of victim’s friends on Facebook was also used to manipulate the amount of bystanders. DVs and scales were utilized to measure participants’ amount of friends on Facebook, cyberbullying experience, sex, how hurt they felt, their support network, how actively they defended a victim, and their emotional and esteem state.

As a result of Brody and Vangelisti’s (2016) 2nd study, a reduced chance of defending the victim actively was found when participants read the cyberbullying scene with a large amount of bystanders compared to participants who read the cyberbullying scene with a small amount of bystanders. This suggests a moderation of visual anonymity on the impact of amount of bystanders during readings of cyberbullying scenes involving acquaintanceship with the victim. On the other hand, participants in the reduced visual anonymity situation did not display contrasts in defending the victim actively during which large or small amounts of bystanders in scenarios were read. Additionally, participants who read cyberbullying scenes involving a victim as a “close friend”, and were placed in both small amount of bystanders and reduced visual anonymity situations expressed the greatest chance of defending the victim actively.

Based on Brody and Vangelisti’s (2016) research, they suggest that later on studies should focus on the potential of teaching or raising awareness in individuals regarding aspects of the situation that reduce the likelihood of intervening online in order to encourage more online helping behaviors. In turn, if victims of cyberbullying, and perhaps offline bullying, are more informed about intervention problems, their chances of searching for support from positive social influences in order to get back on their feet after a cyberbullying occurrence may increase.


Brody, N. & Vangelisti, A.L. (2016). Bystander Intervention in Cyberbullying, Communication Monographs, 83:1, 94-119. doi:10.1080/03637751.2015.1044256

Kowalski, R. M., Giumetti, G. W., Schroeder, A. N., & Reese, H. H. (2012). Cyber bullying amongst college students: Evidence from multiple domains of college life. In L. A. Wankel & C. Wankel (Eds.), Misbehavior online in higher education (pp. 293–321). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.

Smith, A., Rainie, L., & Zickuhr, K. (2011). College students and technology. Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/College-students-and-technology/Report.aspx


Skip to toolbar