Testing a first online intervention to reduce conformity to cyber aggression in messaging apps

DNM Bleize, D Anschutz, Martin Tanis, M Buijzen

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Early adolescents frequently use mobile messaging apps to communicate with peers. The popularity of such messaging apps has a critical drawback because it increases conformity to cyber aggression. Cyber aggression includes aggressive peer behaviors such as nasty comments, nonconsensual image sharing, and social exclusion, to which adolescents subsequently conform. Recent empirical research points to peer group norms and reduced accountability as two essential determinants of conformity to cyber aggression. Therefore, the current study aimed to counteract these two determinants in a 2 (peer group norms counteracted: yes, no) x 2 (reduced accountability counteracted: yes, no) design. We created four intervention conditions that addressed adolescents' deficits in information, motivation, and behavioral skills. Depending on the condition (peer group norms, reduced accountability, combination, or control), we first informed participants about the influence of the relevant determinant (e.g., peer group norms). Subsequently, participants performed a self-persuasion task and formulated implementation-intentions to increase their motivation and behavioral skills not to conform to cyber aggression. Effectiveness was tested with a messaging app paradigm and self-report among a sample of 377 adolescents (Mage = 12.99, SDage = 0.84; 53.6% boys). Factorial ANCOVAs revealed that none of the intervention conditions reduced conformity to cyber aggression. Moreover, individual differences in susceptibility to peer pressure or inhibitory control among adolescents did not moderate the expected relations. Therefore, there is no evidence that our intervention effectively reduces conformity to cyber aggression. The findings from this first intervention effort point to the complex relationship between theory and practice. Our findings warrant future research to develop potential intervention tools that could effectively reduce conformity to cyber aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0272615
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2022

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© 2022 Bleize et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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