The moderation of empathy in the longitudinal association between witnessing cyberbullying, depression, and anxiety

Special Issue: Bystanders of Online Aggression


While the role of and consequences of being a bystander to face-to-face bullying has received some attention in the literature, to date, little is known about the effects of being a bystander to cyberbullying. It is also unknown how empathy might impact the negative consequences associated with being a bystander of cyberbullying. The present study focused on examining the longitudinal association between bystander of cyberbullying, depression, and anxiety, and the moderating role of empathy in the relationship between bystander of cyberbullying and subsequent depression and anxiety. There were 1,090 adolescents (Mage = 12.19; 50% female) from the United States included at Time 1, and they completed questionnaires on empathy, cyberbullying roles (bystander, perpetrator, victim), depression, and anxiety. One year later, at Time 2, 1,067 adolescents (Mage = 13.76; 51% female) completed questionnaires on depression and anxiety. Results revealed a positive association between bystander of cyberbullying and depression and anxiety. Further, empathy moderated the positive relationship between bystander of cyberbullying and depression, but not for anxiety. Implications for intervention and prevention programs are discussed.

Bystander; cyberbullying; empathy; depression; anxiety; longitudinal

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