woman with camera

Using influencers to combat cyberbullying

Published: 03rd July 2023 Last updated: 03rd July 2023

Cyberbullying or online bullying is a problem that affects a lot of children and young people. Being a victim of cyberbullying is often associated with serious mental health problems. Researchers at Tilburg University have used social media influencers to combat cyberbullying. Influencers have the potential to successfully spread anti-bullying messages to their young followers. Together with partners in six European countries, the researchers ran a campaign among students between the ages of 10 and 18 over the past two months to address cyberbullying. This campaign, called TABASCO, indicating the spicy nature of cyberbullying, was funded by the European Erasmus+ program.

"Many initiatives already exist in schools spreading anti-bullying messages. Despite these efforts, these messages do not always 'stick' with children and adolescents" say Tilburg scientists Dr. Sara Pabian and Dr. Marije van Amelsvoort.

Role models

"Social media influencers can not only convince us to buy certain products, they also motivate us to practice 'healthy behaviors'" said Pabian and van Amelsvoort. International studies show that vlogs and images from influencers can encourage young people to exercise more and eat healthier. The effectiveness of these vlogs and images can be explained by the original and authentic content, as well as the personal details that influencers share and the special bond between followers and influencers. Their own creative style allows them to convey "serious" messages in an appealing way. Children and young people often look up to influencers. "With the TABASCO project, we want to use the power of influencers to promote 'healthy' online social behavior." 

Anti-bullying messages in vlogs

More than 300 students in different schools in the Tilburg area participated in the campaign. The students devised storylines for influencers containing anti-bullying messages. The researchers want to share these storylines with influencers to give them inspiration. Examples of anti-bullying messages include 'See a comment, photo or video online that is hurtful to someone else? Hit the report button' and 'Are you being bullied online? Talk about it! You have nothing to be ashamed of'. Influencers could convey these messages by demonstrating reporting or telling a personal story about their own bullying experience. "And according to students' storylines preferably with a touch of humor added," Pabian and van Amelsvoort said. 

Want to know more?
Sara Pabian: s.j.r.pabian@tilburguniversity.edu 
Marije van Amelsvoort: m.a.a.vanamelsvoort@tilburguniversity.edu