'Cyberbullying' Linked to Teen Psychiatric, Social Issues

Adolescent cyberbullies and cybervictims experience various problems
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Being a "cyberbully" (bullying others via electronic means) or a "cybervictim" (being the target of cyberbullying) -- and especially being both -- is associated with psychiatric and psychosomatic problems among adolescents, according to a study in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Andre Sourander, M.D., of Turku University in Finland, and colleagues surveyed 2,215 adolescents, aged 13 to 16 years, about their experience with cyberbullying or cybervictimization over a six-month period. The survey also elicited data on psychiatric and psychosomatic symptoms.

The researchers found that, among respondents, 7.4 percent said they had been cyberbullies only, 4.8 percent said they had been cybervictims only, and 5.4 percent had been both. Being a cybervictim only was associated with emotional problems, peer problems, not feeling safe in school, perceived difficulties, headache, chronic abdominal pain, sleeping problems, and a family group with other than two biological parents. Being a cyberbully only was associated with hyperactivity, perceived difficulties, conduct problems, low prosocial behavior, smoking, drunkenness, headache, and not feeling safe in school. Being both a cybervictim and cyberbully was associated with all those factors. Among cybervictims, fear for safety was associated with cyberbullying by an adult, an unknown person, or a group.

"Rapid technological changes, the anonymity of the perpetrator, and the potentially large audience make cyberbullying more complicated to prevent than traditional bullying. The potential of cyberbullying is probably growing with the increasing penetration of networked computers and mobile telephones among children and adolescents. Therefore, policy makers, educators, parents, and adolescents themselves should beware of the potential harmful effects of cyberbullying," the authors write.

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