Cyberbullying on Social Media Linked to Teen Depression

Oct 01, 2016

Bullying is not new—it’s something that’s been around for as long as time. Cyberbullying, however, has taken bullying to the next level in our modern world, allowing teens to harass their peers online, from the safety of their own bedroom or home.

Like traditional bullying, cyberbullying can come in a variety of unfamiliar forms, including: impersonation, commenting or acting as someone else in a hurtful way; cyber stalking, frequently following, contacting and harassing the victim; outing, sharing secrets or personal information about someone to a large group of people; and trolling, winding people up online by asking immature comments or making mean comments.

With access to technology at an all-time high for kids and teens, it’s no wonder this has become a serious problem. In fact, 52 percent of teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying, and 24 percent have experienced repeated bullying via cellphone or Internet, according to NoBullying.com. Shockingly, 95 percent of teens have witnessed this behavior online and ignored it.

Researchers for Cyberbullying.org published similar findings. In a study of 457, between the ages of 11 and 15, at a high school in the Midwestern United States, 19.4 percent said they’ve heard rumors online, 15 percent has been cyber bullied and 21 percent have experienced this bullying more than once.

The growing prevalence of this problem has lead to a new issue: teen depression. In recent years, we’ve all been witness to a variety of news stories about young kids committing suicide as a result of this bullying. While the “health effects” of cyberbullying are “widely unknown,” according to a report on Livescience.com, it’s clear there’s a link between teen depression and this modern form of bullying.

“Unlike traditional forms of bullying, youth who are the targets of cyberbullying at school are at greater risk for depression than are the youth who bully them,” according to NIH researchers. Why? Because victims cannot see and therefore identify their harasser, making them more likely to feel isolated, helpless or dehumanized.

In fact, among 1,320 students from Australia, those who were cyber bullied (as opposed to traditional bullying, which is still dangerous and prevalent), reported significantly higher depressive symptoms. They were also found to engage in other dangerous activities including increase drinking and smoking in addition to getting lower grades in school, all of this according to a study published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health.

As a parent, it can be difficult to know when your child is the victim of cyberbullying, as many studies have found that children rarely tell an adult about what they’re experiencing. As such, it’s important to be aware of the signs of cyberbullying. According to StopBullying.gov, some of these signs include:

  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares
  • Declining grades
  • Changes in eating habits, kids skipping meals
  • Sudden loss of friends, avoidance of social situations
  • Decreased self esteem
  • Destructive behaviors, like running away or harming themselves

You can also invest in software like Net Nanny, which makes it easier for you to see what your teen is doing online. You can set Internet filters, block vulgar language on websites, monitor social media, and get alerts and reports on what your child is doing online.

Cyberbullying is no longer just a buzzword; it’s a real problem around the world, affecting more and more children every year. Unfortunately, your teen may not tell you when they’re experiencing this. Look for the warning signs and keep an eye on what your kids are doing online as much as possible.