In the Spotlight: The Effects of Celebrity Bashing on (young) Bystanders and Victims.

This new project covers a study on a very specifc, though, prominent type of online aggression: Celebrity bashing. Celebrity bashing refers to the negative and scandal-inspired way of commenting toward and about celebrities, and can be performed by journalists, the audience and other celebrities. This project aims to enrich our knowledge on this phenomenon by investigating both the perspective of adolescent perpetrators as well as the perspective of celebrity-victims.

On the side of the perpetrator, we will investigate the causal link between being a bystander of the different types of celebrity bashing and becoming a perpetrator and the underlying processes that might explain this association (mediators), and contextual factors (i.e., type of the perpetrator, type of the involved celebrity) moderating this association (moderators). This will be guided by the General Aggression Model (GAM).

On the side of the celebrity-victim, we will investigate celebrities' feelings and coping strategies when being confronted with bashing. This project will increase our insights on the impact of celebrity bashing on adolescents and celebrities, and thus provide evidence for the development of effective prevention and intervention initiatives.

This project is funded by the Research Foundation - Flanders

Promotors: Heidi Vandebosch & Charlotte De Backer

Fellow: Gaëlle Ouvrein

FOOMS - Food, Media and Society

FOOMS is a group of scholars that study food in the context of media and social interactions.

Most researchers are members of MIOS. With MIOS we study media and interpersonal relations in organizations and society, and food is one of our focus areas. 

FOOMS focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to study food (and media).

FOOMS researchers study individuals in environments, which means we look at both nature and nurture/cultural aspects that shape human behavior. They combine different research disciplines and often fall back on these domains:

Evolutionary Psychology to study innate mechanisms that underly our food related behavior. For instance, we crave certain foods (sugar rich, fatty) more than others. Yet FOOMS researchers also look at how innate drives for social status, group belonging, fairness or morality shape our relations to food. 

Storytelling/ social talk to use as (succesful) vehicles to convey information. People share stories, people gossip, and both can be used as means to vicariously learn from the successes and failures of others. Stories are powerful, often more powerful than informing people with facts and figures, and food and stories are connected in many interesting ways. Dinners create intimate contexts for stories to be told, food media overwhelm us with stories about food and their creators, and food marketeers have found their way into this area as well. 

Media as contextual factors that also shape our food related behavior. Most behavior is the outcome of innate drives and contextual factors. We focus on media environments to explain food related behavior. Media may affect our behavior, but we may as well use media to gratify our needs, and we can/must dare to think about how we can optimally use food media to create pleasant and healthy environments to shape our food related behavior.

Charlotte De Backer (FOOMS coordinator) obtained her PhD about gossip/social talk (2005), was trained as an evolutionary psychologist (she worked at the Center for Evolutionary Psychology in Santa Barbara with Leda Cosmides and John Tooby in 2005/6), and later shifted her focus to food studies, where she now aims to merge her different fields of interest and expertise. 

FOOMS aims to unite scholars from different disciplines that study:

Food Marketing: all processes between the food producer and the food consumer (we so far mainly focus on food advertising),

Food Media: all media messages about food except for classic advertising. Think of cooking television, websites, but certainly also everything that circulates on social media about food and the many food gurus, and

Social Food studies: food is (also) a social process, and we study the relation between food and identity, commensality, and the power of sharing food on prosocial behavior.

More information...

Dating it Safe Study: publication and podcast

Joris Van Ouytsel talks in the JOSN podcast with Dr. Julia Muennich Cowell, Executive Editor of the Journal of School Nursing, about a new study published in the April issue of the journal entitled “The Associations Between Substance Use, Sexual Behaviors, Bullying, Deviant Behaviors, Health, and Cyber Dating Abuse Perpetration”.  The study uses data from the Dr. Jeff R. Temple's Dating it Safe study and Joris worked on the publication during his time as a Fulbright grantee at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX. The study focuses on the links between perpetration of digital forms of dating violence and other forms of risky behavior and risky behaviors. The results of the study showed that having had sexual intercourse or using alcohol or drugs before having sex was significantly linked with cyber dating abuse perpetration, as was poor physical health, and substance use. Joris also discusses why research on digital forms of dating violence is needed. 

Listen to the podcast

Full publication


Dating violence is an important public health concern and is considered to be a form of school violence. While digital technologies have enabled perpetrators of dating violence to target their victims online (cyber dating abuse), little is known about how this form of perpetration relates to specific adolescent risk behaviors. This brief research report focuses on the associations between substance use, sexual behaviors, deviant behaviors, self-reported health, and cyber dating abuse perpetration. Participants included 705 ethnically diverse adolescents (n = 408; 57.9%female) in Southeast Texas. Having had sexual intercourse or using alcohol or drugs before having sex was significantly linked with cyber dating abuse perpetration, as was poor physical health, and substance use. Consistent with limited research, we found a link between cyber dating abuse and engagement in bullying behaviors. The discussion section includes suggestions for school nurse practice and further research.

Mediated narratives, interactive technology, and health behaviors.

Can you use a TV soap or a game to promote health? What is the role and impact of health stories from celebrities, (blogging) patients and health organisations? How should health and media professionals work together? And what challenges do health communication scholars face? These and other questions were answered at the HealthNar closing symposium.

On March 23-24, 2017, the closing symposium of the European IRSES Health Narratives Network was organized at the University of Antwerp (Belgium).  On the first day, the potential of Entertainment-Education for health promotion was explored. On the second day, new technologies and new storytellers were put in the spotlights.

The symposium included keynote lectures, poster presentations, interactive sessions and a roundtable discussion. Several renowned scholars and field experts contributed.

The symposium invited health promotion practitioners, media professionals, health communication scholars, and health and media policymakers to participate. 

Young people confronted with hate speech online

Research conducted by MIOS among more than 1000 12-18-year-olds found that one third of girls received unwanted comments about their looks, body or sexuality. One out of five teen girls were confronted with sex related gossip through social media. One in five have been called names. 

More information about the study can be obtained from Heidi Vandebosch, Karolien Poels, Kathleen Van Royen

More details about the AMiCA projectAutomatic Monitoring for Cyberspace Applications, a collaboration between the research teams CLiPS, MIOS, LT3, IBCN & VISICS. 

Hereafter you'll find more information (in Dutch):

Bijna één op de vijf Vlaamse tienermeisjes wel eens ongewenst “hoer” of “slet” genoemd via sociale media.

Een heel aantal tienermeisjes in Vlaanderen werd al eens geconfronteerd met seksueel grensoverschrijdend gedrag via sociale media. Dat blijkt uit onderzoek van het Departement Communicatiewetenschappen van de Universiteit Antwerpen, uitgevoerd door Kathleen Van Royen in samenwerking met Prof. Heidi Vandebosch en Prof. Karolien Poels.

Een kleine 1.000-tal jongeren tussen 12 en 18 jaar werd gevraagd naar hoe vaak ze in de voorbije 6 maanden op sociale media “ongewenst” geconfronteerd werden met  bepaalde seksueel getinte uitspraken of acties. Bijna één derde van de meisjes kreeg al eens een ongewenste opmerking over uiterlijk, lichaam of seksualiteit. Over één of vijf werd een seksueel getinte roddel verspreid via sociale media, en bijna één op vijf werd ongewenst "hoer" of "slet" genoemd. Ongeveer zeven procent van de meisjes kreeg ooit een seksueel getinte vraag waar dwang of bedreigingen aan te pas kwamen. Van bijna één procent, tot slot, werd een foto met naakt verspreid via sociale media.

Meisjes krijgen het volgens de studie beduidend zwaarder te verduren dan jongens. “Mee aan de basis van deze cijfers ligt een ongelijke genderhouding” legt onderzoekster Kathleen Van Royen uit. "Zo heerst bijvoorbeeld nog het idee dat wanneer je je als meisje te aantrekkelijk voorstelt of te suggestief gedraagt, je daarvoor moet worden afgestraft", zegt Van Royen. Maar ook sociale media faciliteren dit doordat zulke opmerkingen niet in iemands gezicht hoeven gegeven te worden of anoniem kunnen zijn. Daders zijn vaak jongens of oudere mannen, maar ook meisjes doen dit. Zij handelen eerder vanuit jaloezie, een bepaalde onzekerheid of door ruzie. 

De impact van cybergeweld kan moeilijk onderschat worden, vindt Van Royen, omdat die vaak groter is als er meer getuigen zijn. Bovendien is het voor jonge meisjes moeilijk om zich van sociale media weg te trekken omdat dit deel van hun leefwereld uitmaakt. “Meisjes die herhaaldelijk zulke opmerkingen krijgen of de controle verliezen over de situatie, kunnen hier negatieve emotionele gevolgen van ondervinden”, aldus Van Royen. Vooral voor jonge meisjes kan dat een grote impact hebben, en dus vindt Van Royen dat er dringend actie ondernomen moet worden tegen deze toch wel hoge cijfers. «Kinderen moeten al van jongs af aan bewust gemaakt worden van gelijke genderverhoudingen. Dat kan bijvoorbeeld op school gebeuren.” Het is daarbij heel belangrijk om potentiële daders duidelijk te maken wat de impact kan zijn. Bovendien is het belangrijk om meisjes weerbaar te maken en om hen beter te leren omgaan met online geweld.

"Er worden al goede sensibiliseringsacties ondernomen", zegt de onderzoekster, zoals door Mediawijs, Child Focus, en Sensoa. "Maar een meer structurele aanpak is nodig.” Sociale media kunnen bovendien zelf meehelpen aan het inperken van de cijfers, maar behalve rapporteringsmechanismen en gebruikersrichtlijnen, doen ze dat momenteel nog te weinig. Uit eerder onderzoek bleek al dat Facebook soms niets aanvangt met klachten van jongeren.

MIOS part of the international HealthNar program

Narratives play an increasingly important role in (online) communication about health issues. News reporters not only report the cold facts about an upcoming epidemic, but also increasingly employ techniques that are used in novels and movies. Serious games use interactive storytelling techniques to improve the health of children. Health campaigns use celebrities and role models in order to convince a target audience to adopt healthy habits.

In spite of their increasing use, relatively little is known about the effects of narratives in a health communication context, as expertise on narratives is scattered across different disciplines.

The objective of the HealthNar program is

  • to strengthen and consolidate the emerging field of narrative health communication and
  • to establish a flourishing and solid multidisciplinary research exchange network on narratives and health.

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