Cyberbullying has negative effects on victims, such as lower- ing self-esteem, increasing depression, and producing feelings of powerlessness.6,10–13 Cyberbullying can be more devastat- ing than traditional bullying for three reasons. First, cyber- bullying is easier to engage in because of increased anonymity and decreased internal censorship.13–14 Second, cyberbullying is more pervasive than traditional bullying,13 partly because perpetrators can use a broad range of platforms, including Web sites, cell phones, e-mail, and instant messaging.15 Third, on-
line comments are often permanently, and repeatedly, visible by peers.15,16 A particularly troubling form of cyberbullying is weight-based cyberbullying.
Weight-based cyberbullying. Weight-based (cyber)bul- lying is pervasive. Adolescents report that weight-based bul- lying is the most common form of bullying experienced at school,3–4 and 53% of parents report that ‘‘being overweight’’ is the most common reason for youth bullying.4 Across all demographic categories, weight-based bullying increases in intensity as the victim’s body mass index (BMI) increases.2,3
Cyberbullying is the most common form of weight-based bul- lying among overweight adolescents; 61% have received mean or embarrassing posts online, and 59% have received mean texts, e-mails, or instant messages.4 Weight-based cyber- bullying can be more serious than in-person weight-based bullying because comments have high social visibility and permanence in cyberspace.10,13 Given the prevalence and severity of weight-based cyberbullying, it is crucial to con- sider methods to reduce or prevent this behavior, such as encouraging bystanders of bullying to defend the victim.17–20
Conformity and dissenter effects
Public situations with easily observed behavior encourage social conformity.21 Conformity occurs when an individual experiences pressure to act normatively.22,23 With cyber- bullying, bystanders (observers of the bullying interaction)