Cyberbullying Linked to Mental Health

Jul 7 2010 - 9:07am
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A new study from Finland has determined that teens who "cyberbully" others via the Internet or cell phones are more likely to suffer from mental health issues. In addition, the victims also suffer from mental and physical issues.

Cyberbullying is defined by the researchers as an aggressive, intentional and repeated use of mobile phones, computers and other electronic equipment to harass victims who cannot easily defend themselves.

Dr. Andre Sourander of Turku University in Finland and colleagues had 2,438 Finnish adolescents in seventh- and ninth-grade complete questionnaires and found six months prior to the survey, 4.8 percent of the participants were only victims of cyberbullying, 7.4 percent were cyberbullies only and 5.4 percent were both victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying.

Other than being questioned about cyberbullying, they were also asked about substance use, traditional bullying behavior and psychosomatic symptoms, including headaches and abdominal pain.

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The researchers discovered that victims of cyberbullying reported living in a house with less than two biological parents; perceived emotional, concentration and behavior difficulties; having trouble getting along with others; headaches and abdominal pain.

The researchers further found that cyberbullies reported emotional problems, concentration and behavior difficulties; trouble getting along with others, hyperactivity; conduct problems; infrequent helping behaviors, frequent smoking and drinking; headaches and not feeling safe in schools.

"The feeling of being unsafe is probably worse in cyberbullying compared with traditional bullying," Dr. Andre Sourander of Turku University and co-authors wrote. "Traditional bullying typically occurs on school grounds, so victims are safe at least within their homes. With cyberbullying, victims are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

"There is a need to create cyberenvironments and supervision that provide clear and consistent norms for healthy cyberbehavior. Clinicians working in child and adolescent health services should be aware that cyberbullying is potentially traumatizing,” stated Sourander.

"Policy makers, educators, parents, and adolescents themselves should be aware of the potentially harmful effects of cyberbullying. Future research is needed on whether antibullying policies, materials, interventions, and mobile telephone and internet user guidelines are effective for reducing cyberbullying," Sourander said.

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