As a consequence of social media, gaming platforms, and other online communication technologies, bullying has gotten simpler and more serious, hurting many of our schools, families, and communities. According to studies, cyberbullying, the online equivalent of school-based bullying, is also associated with a host of negative emotional, psychological, physiological, and behavioural consequences.
The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Early Adolescence. While the subject has gotten a lot of interest in the previous decade, little is known about its connection to empathy.
Affective empathy is a natural and unconscious reaction in which one feels and shares the feelings of another, whereas cognitive empathy requires an active placement of oneself in the position of another in order to recognise their mental state and comprehend their emotions.
Researchers evaluated general cyberbullying, race-based cyberbullying, and religion-based cyberbullying in a nationwide sample of 1,644 12 to 15-year-olds for the study. The findings, published in the Journal of Early Adolescence, revealed that those with higher empathy levels were significantly less likely to cyberbully others in general, as well as cyberbully others based on their race or religion. The higher a kid’s empathy score, the less likely the youth was to cyberbully others.
Higher levels of overall empathy were connected with reduced probability of cyberbullying others based on their ethnicity or religion when it came to bias-based cyberbullying.
Only cognitive empathy was substantially and adversely connected to cyberbullying when the two sub-facets of empathy were evaluated independently. Surprisingly, emotional empathy was not one of them. This conclusion was surprising because previous study had consistently found a negative relationship between affective empathy and a range of bullying behaviours.
“Based on our findings, we believe that schools need more focused efforts to improve empathy as a means of reducing these forms of harm and better protecting those in vulnerable and marginalised communities,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., lead author and professor at Florida Atlantic University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within the College of Social Work and Criminal Justice.
co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center “However, anti-bullying initiatives require precise guidance on which types of empathy should be promoted.”
When watching victimisation online, cognitive empathy, rather than affective empathy, has been demonstrated to be connected with sensitivity to injustice, which restricts damage against others and demands positive, intervening action (or offline). Furthermore, cognitive empathy is linked to “social empathy” and comprehending another person’s feelings.
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“Research has proven over decades that people who are different from the majority are not disproportionately targeted, but suffer more severe effects when harmed.” As a result, we must continue to discover what may be done to reverse this tendency,” Hinduja added.”Our findings show that fostering and increasing cognitive empathy in young people might reduce not only race- and religion-based cyberbullying, but also other types of bias-based cyberbullying, such as those related to one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or handicap.”
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