If teenagers spend a lot of time on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and others, they are more likely to engage in cyberbullying, finds a new study.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Counseling, higher social media addiction scores, more hours spent online and identifying as male significantly predicted cyberbullying perpetration in adolescents.
“There are some people who engage in cyberbullying online because of the anonymity and the fact that there’s no retaliation,” said researcher Amanda Giordano, Associate Professor at the University of Georgia.
“You have these adolescents who are still in the midst of cognitive development, but we’re giving them technology that has a worldwide audience and then expecting them to make good choices,” Giordano added.
Cyberbullying can take on many forms, including personal attacks, harassment or discriminatory behaviour, spreading defamatory information, misrepresenting oneself online, spreading private information, social exclusion and cyberstalking.
For the study, the researchers surveyed adolescents ranging in age from 13-19 years. Of the 428 people surveyed, 214 (50 per cent) identified as female, 210 (49.1 per cent) as male and four (0.9 per cent) as other.
The researchers said that when adolescents are online, they adapt to a different set of social norms than when they are interacting with their peers in person.
They are often more aggressive or critical on social media because of the anonymity they have online and their ability to avoid retaliation.
Additionally, cyberbullies may feel less remorse or empathy when engaging in these behaviours because they can’t see the direct impact of their actions.
The participants in the study reported spending on average over seven hours online per day, and the reported average maximum hours spent online in one day was over 12 hours.
The study also found that adolescent males are more likely to engage in cyberbullying than females, aligning with past studies that show aggressive behaviours tend to be more male-driven.