Cyberbullying Puts Teens at Risk

Release Date: June 4, 2013 | By Sharyn Alden, HBNS Contributing Writer
Research Source: Journal of Adolescent Health

KEY POINTS

  • Teens who receive hurtful and harassing online messages or via cell phones, are more likely to develop symptoms of depression, substance abuse and internet addiction.
  • Teens who are depressed or who abuse drugs are also often victims of cyberbullying.

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Teenage victims of cyberbullying, defined as the use of the internet or cell phones to send hurtful and harassing messages, are more likely to develop symptoms of depression, substance abuse and internet addiction, reports a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Conversely, teens who are depressed or who abuse drugs are also often targets of cyberbullies.

Understanding the link between cyberbullying and health behaviors in adolescence is critical, said the study’s lead author, Manuel Gamez-Guadix, Ph.D. of the University of Deusto in Spain. “A number of adolescents are both victims of cyberbullying and perpetrators of cyberbullying, but victims are at higher risk for psychological and behavior health problems, like substance abuse, after six months of bullying.”

Gamez-Guadix and his colleagues surveyed eight hundred and forty-five students (498 girls and 337 boys) between the ages of 13 and 17 years-old.  They found that 24 percent had been a victim of one cyberbullying behavior, such as someone sending a threatening or insulting message, 15.9 percent said they experienced two bullying behaviors and 8 percent were victimized by three cyberbulling behaviors.

Cyberbullying, say the researchers, is a growing problem, especially among adolescents. Hurtful and harassing messages, rumors, inappropriate or fake photos and videos can be easily and frequently posted anonymously in text messages, emails or on social networking sites  making them hard to avoid. Messages from cyberbullies are often hard to trace and difficult to delete.

Robert D. Sege, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at Boston University noted, “This is an important study because it contributes to what we already know about cyberbullying. It’s pretty clear if you are cyber bullied, you are more apt to be vulnerable to a cluster of non-adaptive behaviors. I found it particularly interesting that if teens are cyber bullied, they are more apt to become depressed, and conversely, if they are depressed, they are more apt to be bullied.”

“Adolescents are living their life on the Internet today,” noted Sege. “This includes societal experiences and non-adaptive behaviors that are often clustered together during their teen years.”

Gamez-Guadix added “It is important to include strategies to prevent cyberbullying within interventions for behavioral problems during adolescence. Mental health professionals should pay special attention to these problems in the treatment of victims of cyberbullying.”

TERMS OF USE: This story is protected by copyright. When reproducing any material, including interview excerpts, attribution to the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, is required. While the information provided in this news story is from the latest peer-reviewed research, it is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment recommendations. For medical questions or concerns, please consult a health care provider.

For More Information:

Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at (202) 387-2829 or hbns-editor@cfah.org.

Journal of Adolescent Health: Contact Tor Berg at (415) 502-1373 or tor.berg@ucsf.edu or visit www.jahonline.org

Tags for this article:
Peer Influence   Depression/Anxiety   Relationships/Social Support   Promote your Health   Children and Young People's Health  



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