Cyberbullying Can Increase Self-Harm Activities

Cyberbullying is an ongoing epidemic across the world.  Unlike face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying consists of using technology such as social media or texting to belittle another person.

Although face-to-face bullying still exists, cyberbullying has the potential to be much more dangerous.  Over the past few years, the amount of teen suicides related to cyberbullying has risen drastically.

Cyberbullying is Much More Dangerous than Traditional Face-to-Face Bullying 

Technology has made it easier for bullies to reach their victims anywhere and anytime.  Cyberbullying can be constant and over a wide spread of platforms.  For instance, one can be harassed over social media sites, texting, and video gaming systems all at the same time.  This makes it difficult for the victim to escape the bully.  Elizabeth Landau states in her article When Bullying Goes High-Tech, "Cyberbullying presents unique challenges in the sense that the perpetrator can attempt to be anonymous, and attacks can happen at any time of day or night".  Bullying is not longer occurring just at school and this seemingly constant exposure to harassment can lead to serious psychological issues.

One of the major dangers of cyberbullying is that the bully can remain anonymous.  Individuals gain courage when their identities are hidden behind a screen, therefore someone may be more likely to say something hurtful online rather than in person.  This anonymity also makes it more difficult for the bully to be caught and stopped.

Roughly, one in four teenagers report being victims of cyberbullying.  The individual in the video below shares a personal story of her own experiences as a victim of cyberbullying.

Research Shows Cyberbullies Who are Also Victims are at the Highest Risk for Viewing Suicide-Related Content Online

In the study Adolescents' Viewing of Suicide-Related Web Content and Psychological Problems: Differentiating the Roles of Cyberbullying Involvement, researchers divided participants into four roles: those who are not involved, cybervictim, cyberbully, and cyberbully-victim.  Once the roles were distinguished, researchers then conducted a survey that defined the correlation between cyberbullying roles and viewing self-harm related web-content. Self-harm related web content included any and all content found on the internet regarding self-harm behaviors such as suicide and cutting.  The web content was not always encouraging of the behaviors, but rather used as a resource for help.

Based on this study, individuals who are both a bully and a victim of cyberbullying viewed the most self-harm related web-content. Almost one third of cyberbully-victims viewed self-harm related content online.  This correlation can indicate which individuals are at the highest risk for self-harm related activities, such as suicide.  Although most of the content being viewed was resources for help, thoughts of self-harm can lead to devastating actions.

Once an individual is involved in cyberbullying there is a dramatic increase of viewing self-harm content online.  The cybervictim, the cyberbully, and the cyberbully-victim all have viewed self-harm related content more than an individual who is not involved in cyberbullying.  This shows an outstanding correlation between cyberbullying roles and thoughts of suicide/self harm.

Studies Show a Strong Correlation between Cyberbullying and Psychological Disorders

In a study conducted by Anke Gözig, cybervictims and cyberbully-victims are twice as likely to have emotional problems compared to those who are not involved.  These emotional problems include disorders such as anxiety and depression, which are both linked to suicidal thoughts and actions.  

Because cyberbully does not occur face-to-face, it is easier for the victim to feel dehumanized and isolated.  Thus, victims of cyberbullying are more likely to experience psychological conditions such as social anxiety and depression.  On the other hand, cyberbullies show very low levels of psychological issues.  The small percent of cyberbullies who do show psychological problems are more likely to be related to conduct issues and trouble controlling their anger.  Cyberbully-victims have the highest rates of psychological problems that include a mixture of both conduct issues and anxiety and depression.

These psychological disorders can affect every area of a victim's life.  Psychological disorders caused by cyberbullying can lead to poor performance in school, damage to self-esteem, and drug and alcohol abuse.  Additionally, these disorders can last over the span of an individual's life and cause problems for years to come.

Actions are Being Taken By Social Media Sites, Parents, and School Administration to Curb the Amount of Cyberbullying Present Online.

Many social media sites have recognized the cyberbullying epidemic and have taken steps to stop it.  Sites such as Twitter and Facebook now have a report button, which allows users to report a comment or a post as harassment.  These sites also have the option of blocking certain individuals, which makes it easier for cybervictims to escape harassing users.  

There have also been many new apps which parents can download on their child's phone to help diminish cyberbullying.  These apps have developed algorithms that detect offensive language.  When the offensive language is detected the app will send a notification to the user letting them know that this language is offensive and then will ask if they still want to send the message.  This gives the individual time to reflect and decide if they really want to send the message.

Schools have also been proactive in combatting cyberbully by holding assemblies to educate students on the effects of bullying and proper ways to communicate over technology.  Helen Cowie, a professor at the University of Surrey, discusses the importance of the school system's involvement in cyberbullying prevention efforts.  If schools can educate students about the devastating effects cyberbullying can have on all parties involved, students might think before they send that first mean text.  The goal of the school's involvement is to stop cyberbullying before it occurs.


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