New research is assessing the emotional, social, and behavioral impact of cyberbullying on adolescents who use social networking sites (SNS) – as the prevalence of online harassment continues to increase especially among teenagers.
Social networking sites (SNS) are a ubiquitous platform for communication – as advertisers/businesses use it to target marketing demographics, news agencies use it to disseminate trending information, and adults have flocked to it in order to reconnect with former schoolmates.
However, as useful as SNS are, these same social outlets can provide opportunities for abuse and harassment, either from known or anonymous assailants. This is typically referred to as cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass or intimidate others in a deliberate, abusive manner with degrading or threatening content – either through email, text message, instant message, or on social media forums like Facebook and Twitter.
The rise is this form of harassment can be attributed to the fact that individuals who would ordinarily avoid confrontation for fear of physical or lawful reprisals now find themselves free to act online as they wish, cruelly attacking others without consequence.
People have a reduced sense of accountability for their online actions.
The current study, published in the upcoming issue of Computers in Human Behavior, examined adolescent victims’ understanding of cyberbullying, the specific types of cyberbullying events experienced in SNS, and the impact of these events.
Researchers recruited 25 individuals (15 to 24 years of age) who expressed having negative experiences on social networking sites. During their interviews, 68 percent of cyberbullying victims reported experiencing a combined emotional, social and behavioral impact for each unpleasant experience they endured, while 12 percent reported no impact at all.
Analysts are hoping to use this information in order to establish effective methods to further curb abusive online behaviors.
Prior research has shown that cyberbullying can be just as emotionally and psychologically damaging as face-to-face bullying.
However, cyberbullying can almost be considered worse as its victims are often bullied in person as well; it can occur 24/7; messages can be distributed quickly to a wider audience; and, once posted, the content can be extremely difficult to remove as we’ve been frequently reminded, “Once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever.”
Stopbullying.gov says kids who are cyberbullied/bullied are more likely to cope with the use of drugs and alcohol, skip school, receive poor grades, have lower self-esteem, and develop health problems from the ongoing stress.
Victims are also more prone to be depressed, which introduces a host of other emotional and physical risks; increasing the likelihood to entertain suicidal thoughts.
Research on cyberbullying is ongoing, however, because technology and social media use changes frequently among teens and young adults, it is difficult to design study models that can accurately capture trends.
[Photo Credit: Amy Fleming]