Study Finds Links Between Cyberbullying and Adolescent Depression


A new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health reports that teenagers who experience cyberbullying are more likely to develop negative responses such as depression and addictive behaviors.

The study's lead author, Dr. Manuel Gamez-Guadix of the University of Deusto in Spain, said that it is important to understand how cyberbullying impacts adolescent health.  While many adolescents both become cyberbullying victims and also bully others themselves, those that experience cyberbullying attacks for six months or longer are more likely to experience problems such as depression or substance abuse.

Interestingly, the correlation between cyberbullying and depression worked in both directions.  Teens who experienced cyberbullying were more likely to become depressed, but depressed teens were also more likely to become cyberbullying victims.  Bullying can cause depression, but depressed teens may also display loner or antisocial behaviors that can make them attractive targets for bullies.

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but as teens increasingly live their lives online the proliferation of social media can make the threats and insults of bullying much more permanent and visible.  Parents can help by monitoring their child's online activity, but parents also need to be engaged in their child's real-world life.  Particularly as the media continues to draw the connection between cyberbullying and suicide, children and adolescents may internalize the message that self-harm is a natural response to becoming a victim.

One way parents can help is by helping their children develop resilience. Resilience is is the ability to "bounce back" after a negative experience. Whether it's having losing a pet, not making the team, or experiencing cyberbullying, the ability to recover and move on after a negative experience is a vital life skill. Research has shown that relationships are key to developing resilience.  In fact, one strong relationship with a caring adult can be enough to transform how children and teenagers respond to all risk factors.  Monitoring your children's online activity is important, but it's absolutely critical for them to also get the message that you care. 

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