Cyber-bystanding in context: A review of the literature on witnesses' responses to cyberbullying

Kimberley R. Allison*, Kay Bussey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


As a form of peer victimisation, cyberbullying can be conceptualised as a group phenomenon; research on cyberbullying should therefore consider all participant roles, rather than focusing solely on perpetrators and victims. Bystanders are of particular interest in both traditional and cyberbullying as they have the potential to amend the situation by intervening, yet most witnesses remain passive. This paper reviews the literature on cyberbullying bystander behaviour, drawing on both quantitative and qualitative studies to identify factors that influence witnesses' responses. It further compares the ability of two theoretical frameworks (the bystander effect and social cognitive theory) to account for and integrate the diverse findings of these studies. Although the bystander effect is the dominant paradigm for explaining bystander inaction in many contexts, social cognitive theory may be better able to capture the complex and contextually dependent nature of cyberbullying situations. This paper concludes by discussing the implications of this approach for future research, and for potential interventions to improve witnesses' responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-194
Number of pages12
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Cyberbullying
  • Cyber-bystander
  • Bystander intervention
  • Bystander effect
  • Social cognitive theory


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