Cyberbullying on Facebook: Group composition and effects of content exposure on bystander state hostility
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This study addressed the extent to which offensive cyberbullying content exists on Facebook and the extent to which bystanders that view cyberbullying content reported increased levels of hostile affect. Experiment 1 identified 200 open Facebook groups that contained offensive cyberbullying content. Group composition, in terms of group membership and participation, and the content within the groups, in terms of the number and content of posts, were analysed for gender differences and severity of content. Results from Experiment 1 highlighted the visibility of offensive cyberbullying material that is accessible to any member of the Facebook community. Given the prevalence for such content, Experiment 2 was designed to identify the extent to which exposure to cyberbullying content on Facebook would increase levels of state hostility (i.e., hostile affect), while also examining gender differences and controlling for trait hostility. Participants were presented with Facebook screenshots that contained either offensive or neutral Facebook screenshots and were asked to respond to questionnaires via self-reporting methods. Results indicated that exposure to offensive content led to an increase in levels of state hostility, particularly in those who had previously reported higher levels of trait hostility. Taken together, these findings suggest that not only is offensive material perpetrating cyberbullying behaviour prevalent and accessible to any Facebook member, but bystanders who view offensive cyberbullying content have the tendency to respond with increased levels of hostile affect post-exposure.