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Cyberbullying causes intense stress for some

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Technology has a dark side that can cause extreme stress

Scientists from the American Psychological Association say cyberbullying can cause intense stress that may be worse than being harassed in person. Trauma associated with being stalked or tormented via modern technology can have far-reaching implications for mental health. The psychologists say it's important to find ways to cope.

Elizabeth Carll, PhD, presented the findings about the dark side of the internet in a talk entitled, “Electronic Harassment and Cyberstalking: Intervention, Prevention and Public Policy.”

Stress induced from modern technology can leave a mark on all age groups, leading to social anxiety, sadness, and frustration.

Carll says some individuals who are harassed on the internet lose sleep, experience shock and disbelief and have difficulty eating.

“It is my observation that the symptoms related to cyberstalking and e-harassment may be more intense than in-person harassment, as the impact is more devastating due to the 24/7 nature of online communication, inability to escape to a safe place, and global access of the information,” Carll said.

She cites statistics that 40 percent of women have experienced dating violence, text messages and disturbing personal information shared on social media sites. Twenty percent of online stalkers use social media as a tool to harass.

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Carll also says 34 percent of female college students and 14 percent of male students have hacked a romantic partner’s email.

During the same APA session, researchers released findings that 36 percent of students had been cyberbullied in the past year. The students were from Seoul and the Keonggi area of South Korea, age 12 to 19.

“The results revealed that cyberbullying makes students socially anxious, lonely, frustrated, sad and helpless,” said presenter YeoJu Chung, PhD, of South Korea’s Kyungil University.” The data was taken from the students, who completed questionnaires about how they felt about online bullying.

Students who were able to cope tended to focus more on the positive. Others tended to think about cyberbullying to excess, leading to high anxiety and stress.

“Lots of adolescents have trouble recovering from negative effects of cyberbullying,” said Chung. “We can help them use emotion regulation skills to recover, rather than become bullies themselves.”

The finding also showed cyberbullying had a more negative impact on students when it was done anonymously.

Carll believes technology could be developed to fight cyberbullies back. “The same technologies used to harass can also be used to intervene and prevent harassment,” she said. Some states are considering enforcing use of GPS tracking devices on offenders to allow victims to keep tabs on them.

She says it’s important for victims to learn how to use technology safely. Carll also suggests law enforcement and social service workers could learn how to use technology to intervene and stop online stalking, harassment and cyberbullying.



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