Study Finds Cyberbullying Is Now an “Independent Risk Factor” in Early Teen Suicidal Tendencies
Dr. Barzilay noted that although results from the study strengthened the suspected links between a cyberbullying target and having thoughts of suicide or acting on it, we should strike a balance, so as “not to draw panic or ignore reality” from the findings and instead set cyberbullying apart from other risk factors for suicide and promote having children regularly evaluated for it. If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, follow the links to our various support services or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to start using Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant.
A recent US study has revealed how pre-teens who consider or attempt suicide are more likely to have been cyberbullied than physically harmed or bullied offline. The study, undertaken by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Lifespan Brain Institute and the University of Pennsylvania, published in JAMA Network Open, is one of the first to demonstrate how online bullying and abuse now plays an independent role in the emotional trauma of young people who experience suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
After analyzing data from a national survey of 10,414 early adolescents conducted between July 2018 and January 2021, researchers also found that people who bullied online are less likely than offline bullies to experience suicidal tendencies. Researchers noted that, “Perpetrator anonymity may lead to lower levels of distress for the perpetrator and thus a lesser mental health burden than offline peer aggression, as perpetrators of cyberbullying are often unaware of the distress they cause the target and do not fear punishment for their behavior.”
“Cyberbullying above and beyond traditional offline bullying is an independent risk factor for suicidality, and we as a society need to be mindful of it.”
Dr. Ran Barzilay, Senior Study Author
The research team also pointed out that the idea of the study was not to compare cyberbullying to traditional offline bullying, with Dr. Barzilay noting that, “It’s not a horse race to compare what’s worse. We know that bullying is bad for mental health,” he said. “We wanted to know whether cyberbullying is a risk factor, and the answer is a big time yes.”
As part of the study, participants were asked whether they had ever been a target or perpetrator of cyberbullying. Out of all respondents, 7.6% indicated that they had experienced suicidal thoughts or acts, 8.9% reported being targets of cyberbullying, and 0.9% reported cyberbullying others. The researchers found that being a target of cyberbullying was associated with suicidality, whereas being a perpetrator of cyberbullying was not. By contrast, with traditional offline bullying, being either a target or perpetrator of bullying is linked with suicidality.
Dr. Barzilay noted that although results from the study strengthened the suspected links between a cyberbullying target and having thoughts of suicide or acting on it, we should strike a balance, so as “not to draw panic or ignore reality” from the findings and instead set cyberbullying apart from other risk factors for suicide and promote having children regularly evaluated for it.
If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, we can help you. Visit our Help Center or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to open Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant.
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