Guardians against cyber abuse: who are they and why do they intervene?

Zarina I. Vakhitova, Alisa Go, Clair L. Alston-Knox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The ever-increasing use of telecommunication technologies and the Internet have led to an increase in new technology-facilitated types of crime and deviance. Due to the challenges posed by the unique environment of cyberspace on the formal crime control agents (e.g., the police), the role of informal guardians becomes particularly salient. The recent research suggests that informal guardianship against conventional crimes is common and that victims who are more socially active are more likely to receive help. However, it is not clear whether the same patterns of guardianship can be observed in cyberspace. To improve our understanding of how guardianship operates in cyberspace, the current study analyses the data from a sample of U.S. adults who were surveyed about their experiences with cyber abuse. The data was analyzed using mixed methods: a thematic analysis of open-ended responses, followed up by the logistic regression using Bayesian variable selection with the stochastic search algorithm. Our findings suggest that family, friends, intimate partners, authorities, work contacts, online friends, and netizens are most likely to provide guardianship. We also found that similar to conventional crimes like robbery or assault, the levels of guardianship responsibility are predictive of intervention against cyber abuse. Finally, we have established a link between the levels of regular interactions with various social groups and guardians’ availability and willingness to intervene. Implications for theory and practice, as well as future directions for research, are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-122
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Journal of Criminal Justice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Bystander intervention
  • Cyber abuse
  • Cyber guardianship
  • Guardianship in action (GIA)
  • Routine activity theory

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