When Sharing is a Bad Idea: The Effects of Online Social Network Engagement and Sharing Passwords with Friends on Cyberbullying Involvement

Diana Jill Meter, Utah State University
Sheri A. Bauman, University of Arizona


Every day, children and adolescents communicate online via social networking sites (SNSs). They also report sharing passwords with peers and friends, a potentially risky behavior in regard to cyber safety. This longitudinal study tested the hypotheses that social network engagement in multiple settings would predict more cyberbullying involvement over time, and that youth who reported sharing passwords would also experience an increase in cyberbullying involvement. Data were collected at two time points one year apart from 1,272 third through eighth grade students. In line with the first study hypothesis, participating in more online SNSs was associated with increased cyberbullying involvement over time, as well as sharing passwords over time. Cyberbullying involvement at T1 predicted decreases in sharing passwords over time, suggesting that youth become aware of the dangers of sharing passwords as a result of their experience. Sharing passwords at T1 was unrelated to cyberbullying involvement at T2. Although it seems that youth may be learning from their previous mistakes, due to the widespread use of social media and normality of sharing passwords among young people, it is important to continue to educate youth about cyber safety and risky online behavior.