In an effort to narrow down the specifics of cyberbullying, which has been associated with several high profile teen suicides over the past few years, researchers out of the University of Alberta in Edmonton examined 36 studies, most of which originated in the United States.
“We wanted to find out whether there was evidence that social media could be harmful to kids and if so, be able to inform future prevention strategies,” said review author Michele Hamm, a research associate with the Alberta Research Center for Health Evidence at the University.
Despite inconsistencies in the definition of cyberbullying and the frequency with which it affected each child in the surveys, the researchers found that about one if five children have been the victim of cyberbullying, which the new review defined as occurring via social media and excluding text messaging or Skype. The victims of such bullying tended to be female and most incidences centered around relationship issues. The study also found that about 15% of kids reported bullying someone online themselves.
As for the connection between cyberbullying and depression, ten of the studies included in the review found a connection between depression and social media victimization. Whether the bullying directly caused the depression is unclear. It’s possible that depressed teens are simply more likely to become targets of cyberbullying than teens not suffering from depression. The research did find a link between the amount of bullying and severity of depression symptoms, however, with higher rates of cyberbullying resulting in more severe symptoms.
“The associations between cyberbullying and anxiety and self-harm were inconsistent,” Hamm says. “Except for one, all of the studies that we found were only looking at relationships at one point in time, so it isn’t known whether there is a long-term impact of cyberbullying on kids’ mental health.”
One thing is clear. With the vast reach of social media, bullying via such platforms as Facebook can have broader impact than traditional confrontations.
“Harassing messages can be blocked, but public humiliation can’t be halted by victims,” said Robert Farris, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis. “And, of course, it involves a much wider audience.”
What the research proves is that parents must take an active role in monitoring their children’s internet use. Parents are urged to question their children about cyberbullying, since some kids may be apprehensive about coming forward.
“Adolescents are often unaware that anything can be done about cyberbullying so efforts should be made to increase education regarding how to address it and who to tell, focusing on both recipients and bystanders” Hamm says. “There seems to be a common fear that if they tell their parents, for example, they’ll lose their Internet access.”
“Parents need to address that this is happening and that the Internet and social media is here. It’s an important part of their kids’ lives. But it needs to be a whole team approach.”
Source: Latinos Post