Exploring the impact of anonymity on cyberbullying in adolescents: an integrative literature review




Mascotto, Brooke

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Adolescents are vulnerable to the risks associated with failing to protect their online privacy and becoming involved with risky online behaviours such as cyberbullying. The ability to remain anonymous on Social Networking Sites when committing acts of cyberbullying is a major influencing factor on adolescents’ motives and response to cyberbullying. An integrative literature review explores the perceptions of adolescents aged 10-19 regarding anonymity in their online behaviours in order to understand its impact on cyberbullying. The author presents the results using Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (1977) and John Suler’s Online Disinhibition Effect (2005). Anonymity is found to alter adolescent coping strategies and increase the perceived distress of the incident. Anonymity impacts the environment by blurring intention and reception, creates dissociation, and reduces empathy in adolescents. Anonymity alters adolescent behavior through the perceived minimization of consequences, the creation of a power imbalance and encourages bystander participation in cyberbullying further increasing distress. Recommendations for Advanced Practice Nurses are made using a health promotion perspective that includes: building capacity for adolescent resilience and providing education regarding online risks and management. In addition, the importance of advocating for standardized legislation and nation wide anti-bullying policies and programs designed to reduce the incidence and impact of cyberbullying in adolescents will be discussed.



anonymity, cyberbullying, adolescent, social networking, nursing, resilience