Posted on February 11, 2011 in Teens

Cyber Bullying Leads to Depression

Today’s bullying has reached new levels. Gone are the days when things were dealt with face-to-face. Today’s bullies can simply take to Facebook to conduct their smear campaigns for the whole world to see and can even remain anonymous doing it. Also, because of the anonymity and lack of personal contact that the Internet affords, kids tend to say things that they wouldn’t normally say to someone’s face.

Social bullying, or relational victimization, as it is now being called by psychologists, can start in middle school and may extend well beyond high school. A study conducted by researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Health Development examined 7,313 students attending grades six through ten in order to determine if bullying behaviors were tied to depression.

What researchers found was that over half of all participants had been bullied both verbally and socially, and close to 14 percent reported that they had been victims of cyber bullying. In addition, the victims of cyber bullying were at greater risk for depression than those who bullied them.

Unfortunately, what happens in high school doesn’t always stay in high school. A different study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida showed that bullying in the teenage years is linked to depression and anxiety in early adulthood. They also found that there was no gender difference, meaning that males and females alike were prone to suffer depression as a result of bullying. It appears that memories of bad experiences with peers early on create social apprehension for both sexes that is carried into the future.

The problem with this new form of bullying is that is difficult to police and regulate. With traditional physical forms of bullying, it is easier to prove who the instigator is because there is usually some form of physical injury or proof. The altercation may be witnessed by others and there is usually a clear victim and aggressor. With social bullying, however, it is difficult to determine who is starting or spreading rumors. Worse, if the victim speaks up about being socially bullied, they are seen as a snitch, which can worsen the problem.

The state of Missouri has enacted a new law that requires school districts to amend their anti-bullying polices to account for “cyber-bullying” and “electronic communications.” This came as a result of the tragic death of Megan Meier, a Missouri teen, who took her own life in 2006 because of cyber bullying. The mother of one of Megan’s classmates befriended her online, pretending to be her boyfriend, only later to dump and degrade her.

We have all also heard in the news of the recent surge in homosexual suicides for which social bullying has played a part.

These examples really exemplify how harmful social and online bullying can really be. Studies implicate that bullying is less likely to occur when a kids have strong parental support from their parents. Parents and educators alike need to teach each child to be a respecter of persons, and widespread educational efforts need to be in place that proclaims the dangers of social of bullying.

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