Young victims of cyberbullying twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm

April 19, 2018, Swansea University
Professor Ann John, lead author of the study. Credit: Swansea University

Children and young people under 25 who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm and enact suicidal behavior, according to a study.

New research suggests that it is not just the victims of cyberbullying that are more vulnerable to suicidal behaviours, but the perpetrators themselves are also at higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

Cyberbullying is using electronic communication to bully another, for instance by sending intimidating, threatening or unpleasant messages using social media.

The systematic review study, led by Professor Ann John at Swansea University Medical School in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham looked at more than 150,000 children and across 30 countries, over a 21-year period.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, highlighted the significant impact that cyberbullying involvement (as bullies and victims) can have on children and young people.

The researchers say it shows an urgent need for effective prevention and intervention in bullying strategies.

Professor Ann John said: "Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene; and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users".

"Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying programme and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils".

A number of key recommendations have been made:

  • Cyberbullying involvement should be considered by policymakers who implement bullying prevention (in addition to traditional bullying) and safe Internet use programmes.
  • Clinicians working with children and young people and assessing mental health issues should routinely ask about experiences of cyberbullying and be trained to do so.
  • Children and young people involved in cyberbullying should be screened for common mental disorders and self-harm.
  • School, family, and community programmes that promote appropriate use of technology are important.
  • Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene; and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and Internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users.
  • Suicide and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying programme and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils.

The study also found a strong link between being a cyber-victim and being a perpetrator. This duality was found to particularly put males at higher risk of depression and suicidal behaviours.

The researchers highlighted that these vulnerabilities should be recognised at school so that cyberbullying behaviours would be seen as an opportunity to support vulnerable young people, rather than for discipline.

It was recommended that anti-bullying programmes and protocols should address the needs of both victims and perpetrators, as possible exclusion might contribute to an individual's sense of isolation and lead to feelings of hopelessness, often associated with suicidal behaviours in adolescents and young people.

The research also found that students who were cyber-victimised were less likely to report and seek help than those victimised by more traditional means, thus highlighting the importance for staff in schools to encourage 'help-seeking' in relation to .

Explore further: Young victims of cyberbullying twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm, study finds

Related Stories

Young victims of cyberbullying twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm, study finds

August 16, 2017
Children and young people under-25 who become victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to enact self-harm and attempt suicide than non-victims.

Nurses often cyberbullied by patients and families

November 29, 2017
Research by a Massey University PhD candidate into workplace cyberbullying has found that nurses not only experience bullying by other staff, but also by patients and their families.

Cyberbullying rarely occurs in isolation, research finds

March 7, 2017
Cyberbullying is mostly an extension of playground bullying – and doesn't create large numbers of new victims - according to research from the University of Warwick.

Two-thirds of young people victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying, study suggests

October 6, 2016
Two-thirds of young people have been a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying in the last year, new research suggests.

Recommended for you

People are more honest when using a foreign tongue, research finds

August 17, 2018
New UChicago-led research suggests that someone who speaks in a foreign language is probably more credible than the average native speaker.

FDA approves brain stimulation device for OCD

August 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—A brain stimulation device to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has received approval for marketing Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Research eyes role of stress in mental illnesses

August 17, 2018
We all face stress in our lives. Even researchers seeking to understand why some people shrug it off while others face battles against disorders like depression or PTSD.

16 going on 66: Will you be the same person 50 years from now?

August 17, 2018
How much do you change between high school and retirement? The answer depends on whether you're comparing yourself to others or to your younger self.

Men and women show surprising differences in seeing motion

August 16, 2018
Researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on August 16 have found an unexpected difference between men and women. On average, their studies show, men pick up on visual motion significantly faster than women do.

Expecting to learn: Language acquisition in toddlers improved by predictable situations

August 16, 2018
The first few years of a child's life are crucial for learning language, and though scientists know the "when," the "how" is still up for debate. The sheer number of words a child hears is important; that number predicts ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Joker23
not rated yet Apr 20, 2018
I was bullied as a young child by a bully who threw my tricycle into a dug foundation. I picked up a nice flat stone and threw it across the street hitting in his lip. I had to apologize but he NEVER bothered me again. Toughen u all you coddled little brats. Parents, let the kids fight their own battles, teachers, mind your own business. Kids; If it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger.

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.