Although the advent of internet and social media has proved to be a boon, putting life on the fast track and making communication easier and faster, on the flip side, it also has certain disadvantages that may go against people. One such drawback of the internet is cyberbullying. The anonymity of the net spurs people to resort to bullying antics, like misbehaving and behaviors that are reminiscent of traditional bullying tactics like name-calling, spreading rumors, embarrassing and threatening their victims. Victims are more vulnerable than ever because cyberbullies can go for an assault any time.
Cyberbullying refers to a range of misdoings enabled by the internet that include using electronic technology to harass, threaten, embarrass or intimidate another person through e-mails, text messages, voice mail messages, online messaging, social networking sites and other websites. Cyberbullying has evolved as a scathing problem in the United States with debilitating outcomes like mental health conditions and suicide. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, an estimated 16 percent U.S. high school students reported being bullied electronically in the past year.
Impact of cyberbullying on teens’ mental health
In a small study — comprising 50 inpatients at a psychiatric unit between the ages of 13 and 16 — researchers, led by Samantha Saltz, M.D., Child and Adolescent Chief Resident, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, tried to examine the social media tools used for cyberbullying and the effect it had on the mental health of the victims. The researchers presented their findings at a press briefing at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2017 Meeting.
Some key findings of the study were:
- Most participants engaged with at least one type of social media.
- Highest usage was for Facebook at 54 percent, followed by Instagram at 53 percent, Chat Rooms at 33 percent and Twitter at 30 percent.
- Victims of cyberbullying revealed that bullying took place through several media platforms, but none via e-mail.
- Of them, 20 percent respondents reported being victims and 6 percent reported being perpetrators.
- There was a significant correlation between cyberbullying and previous experience of emotional abuse. However, previous trauma such as physical and sexual abuse and neglect were not involved.
- The victims of cyberbullying had higher levels of depression, anger, resentment and they remained estranged from their physical and emotional reality.
Need to learn responsible use of social media
The internet is like a double-edged sword, which can cut for people or cut against them. While it is a treasure trove of information, on the negative side, it also lets someone ruin lives with the click of a button. Greater power demands a greater responsibility, as was quoted by the character played by Toby Maguire in the Spiderman series. Hence, schools, colleges, and other authorities need to step up and educate the youth on responsible use of technology and how to use social media effectively and safely. It is important for them to be able to identify the signs of cyberbullying. Teachers, parents, counsellors also need to be a part of this education to learn how to keep the children safe.
Parents need to keep a close watch on their teens, whether they have any social media accounts, how they connect with friends online and how they communicate among themselves. They also need to keep up with the trends their children pursue to identify potential threat for bullying. Counselors should ask their patients whether they are victims of cyberbullying or whether they are bystanders in the drama unfolding for someone else. It is noteworthy that individuals facing cyberbullying carry substantial risks of developing trauma.
Road to recovery
If you know someone who is overwhelmed by the circumstances in his or her life and is suffering from poor mental health, you may contact the Mental Health Recovery Texas for information about effective mental health treatment program in Texas. Call our 24/7 helpline number (866) 596-4708 or chat online with our experts for advice on the best mental health centers in Texas.