Cyberbullying and Mental Health – Know the Facts, Monday 20 May 2019

Laptops, cell phones, and other mobile devices have made access to the online world almost a given for many people across the United States. There are certainly positives to modern technology and the freedom it gives us, but unfortunately some negative consequences of the cyber world have become increasingly apparent.

Bullying is by no means a new phenomenon, but cyberbullying, defined as “any behavior performed through electronic or digital media by individuals or groups that repeatedly communicates hostile or aggressive messages intended to inflict harm or discomfort on others,” has increased dramatically in the last decade or so¹.

For many of us, cyberbullying was not a problem we faced in our youth and it can be difficult to fully understand, so below are some facts about cyberbullying and its effects³:

  • In a 2011 study, 1 in 5 youth reported being a victim of cyberbullying
  • Cyberbullying has been linked to
    • Emotional distress
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Suicidality
  • Cyberbullying is correlated with increased substance abuse

As of 2016 the best research indicates that anywhere between 20-40% of young people experience cyberbullying¹. Given the fact that many experts have linked cyberbullying to a tripled suicide risk and doubled depression risk³, we must ask, what can be done to stop this epidemic?

While there is minimal research into effective prevention mechanisms, some steps parents can take include:

  • Help monitor and establish social network use³
  • Lobby middle and high schools to introduce seminars and training sessions about cyberbullying for teachers and parents¹
  • Be aware of signs and symptoms³
    • Declined use of electronics/anxiety surrounding electronics
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Moodiness and irritability
    • Talk about/engage in self harm
    • Disengage from regular activities
  • If concerned: openly discuss the issue with your children

Other adults, specifically pediatricians and teachers, can help by making sure to keep an open dialogue with students about bullying, so that they may feel safe admitting when they are being hurt.

The number of attempted suicides in the United States for young people doubled between 2007 and 2015, and has continued to rise, while the number of mental health professionals available for youth has remained insufficient². This may explain why articles have been popping up at an alarming rate about young people, some even younger than 10, taking their lives because of bullying⁴.

At HDRF, we strive to increase public awareness about depression and mental health to remove the stigma associated with getting help.

Sources:

  1. Aboujaoude, E., Savage, M. W., Starcevic, V., & Salame, W. O. (2015). Cyberbullying: Review of an old problem gone viral. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57(1), 10-18. doi:http://dx.doi.org.pitt.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.04.011
  2. Bracho-Sanchez, D. E. (2019, April 08). Number of children going to ER with suicidal thoughts, attempts doubles. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/08/health/child-teen-suicide-er-study/index.html
  3. Goebert, D., Else, I., Matsu, C., Chung-Do, J., & Chang, J. Y. (2011). The impact of cyberbullying on substance use and mental health in a multiethnic sample.Maternal and Child Health Journal, 15(8), 1282-1286. doi:http://dx.doi.org.pitt.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10995-010-0672-x
  4. Nedelman, M. (2018, August 29). 9-year-old died by suicide after he was bullied, mom says. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/28/health/preteen-suicide-jamel-myles/index.html

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