Adolescent cyberbullies and their victims may have physical, mental health problems

July 5, 2010, JAMA and Archives Journals

Adolescent victims and perpetrators of electronic bullying appear more likely to report having psychiatric and physical symptoms and problems, according to a report in the June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Cyberbullying is defined as an aggressive, intentional, repeated act using mobile phones, computers or other electronic forms of contact against victims who cannot easily defend themselves, according to background information in the article. In a U.S. survey on Internet use among individuals age 10 to 17 years, 12 percent reported being aggressive to someone online, 4 percent were targets of aggression and 3 percent were both aggressors and targets. "There are several special features regarding cyberbullying when compared with traditional physical, verbal or indirect bullying such as the difficulty of escaping from it, the breadth of the potential audience and the anonymity of the ," the authors write.

Andre Sourander, M.D., Ph.D., of Turku University, Turku, Finland, and colleagues distributed questionnaires to 2,438 Finnish adolescents in seventh and ninth grade (age range, 13 years to 16 years). Of those, 2,215 (90.9 percent) were returned with sufficient information for analysis. In addition to information about cyberbullying and cybervictimization, the teens were asked to report their demographic information, general health, substance use, traditional bullying behavior and psychosomatic symptoms, such as headache and abdominal pain.

In the 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.

Being a cybervictim only was associated with living in a family with other than two biological parents; perceived difficulties in emotions, concentration, behavior, or getting along with other people; headache; recurrent abdominal pain; sleeping difficulties and not feeling safe at school. Being a cyberbully only was associated with perceived difficulties in emotions, concentration, behavior, or getting along with other people; hyperactivity; conduct problems; infrequent helping behaviors; frequently smoking or getting drunk; headache and not feeling safe at school. Being both cyberbully and cybervictim was associated with all of these conditions.

"Of those who had been victimized, one in four reported that it had resulted in fear for their safety," the authors write. "The feeling of being unsafe is probably worse in cyberbullying compared with traditional bullying. 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."

The results suggest that cyberbullying is an increasingly important type of harmful behavior, the authors note. "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," they conclude. "Policy makers, educators, parents and adolescents themselves should be aware of the potentially harmful effects of ."

More information: Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67[7]:720-728.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Jul 05, 2010
If these researchers want to find a sample population of "cyber bullies" I suggest they try the chat room associated with any online video game, or the actual internet forum on the game developer's homepage.

Another prime example is this very forum, which is complete with it's own "mafia" of members, including the admins, who consider it their personal responsibility to insult others in as despicable manner as humanly possible. As evidence, simply look at my feedback, or the feedback of anyone at all who posts a view whether political or scientific, which disagrees with those members on this forum of whom I am referring. These individuals should be examined more closely due to their prior manifestations of psychotic and psychopathic behavior and beliefs, including, in several cases, publicly calling for world wide population decrease through attrition, among other things.

These are the same psychopaths who have the audacity to give me negative feedback...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.