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Cyberbullying victims at high risk for depression

The new finding is in contrast to earlier studies of traditional bullying, which found that the highest depression rates were reported by another category of youth involved in bullying – bully victims (those who both bully others and are bullied themselves). Past studies on traditional bullying show that bully-victims are more likely to report feelings of depression than are other groups.

Traditional forms of bullying involve physical violence, verbal taunts or social exclusion. Cyberbullying, or electronic aggression, involves aggressive behaviors communicated over a computer or a cell phone.

“Notably, cyber victims reported higher depression than cyberbullies or bully-victims, which was not found in any other form of bullying,” the study authors wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health. “…unlike traditional bullying which usually involves a face-to-face confrontation, cyber victims may not see or identify their harasser; as such, cyber victims may be more likely to feel isolated, dehumanized or helpless at the time of the attack.”

In a study published last year, study authors reported that the prevalence of bullying is high, with 20.8 percent of U.S. adolescents in school having been bullied physically at least once in the last two months, 53.6 percent having been bullied verbally, 51.4 percent bullied socially (excluded or ostracized), and 13.6 percent having been bullied electronically. Being bullied interferes with scholastic achievement, development of social skills and general feelings of well being.

One of the study authors noted that, in an earlier study, it was found that students were less likely to bully or to be victimized if they felt they had strong parental support - feeling that their parents helped them as much as they needed, were loving, understood their problems and worries, and helped them to feel better when they were upset.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration advises parents to encourage children to tell them immediately if they are victims of cyberbullying or other troublesome online behaviors. The agency has a number of steps that parents can take to help prevent cyberbullying and how to respond to it at www.stopbullying.gov/parents. The site also includes extensive information on preventing and dealing with traditional forms of bullying. The Center for Disease Control also provides information on electronic aggression for parents and educators at www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/youthviolence/electronic aggression/index.html.

Written by: National Institures of Health, NIH News
Posted: Nov 30, 2011 by Lisa Callaham

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