Bystanders are reluctant to get involved when they witness online bullying, a new research has found.
"The results did not surprise me," said lead author of the study Kelly Dillon, doctoral student in communication at The Ohio State University.
In the study, 221 college students participated in an online chat room in which they watched a fellow student get "bullied" right before their eyes.
Only 10 percent of the students who noticed the abuse directly intervened, either by confronting the bully online or helping the victim.
The abuse was not real - the bully and the victim were part of the experiment - but the participants did not know that.
The bright spot in the results was that a much greater percentage of participants who noticed the bullying (nearly 70 percent) indirectly intervened by giving the bully or the chat room a bad review when given the opportunity later.
"Most of the people did not stand up to the bully, but behind the scenes they did judge the bully harshly and try to pass that information on later when the incident was over," Dillon noted.
About 68 percent of participants said later that they noticed the cyber bullying in the chat window.
Of the one in 10 who noticed the abuse and responded directly, more than half (58 percent) reprimanded the bully.
A quarter of those who responded insulted the bully, saying things like "I can smell the odour of loser from you."
Dillon said this research may aid in designing interventions that can help bystanders find ways to stop cyber bullying.
The study appeared in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.