A new study has revealed that teenage victims of cyberbullying are more likely to develop symptoms of depression, substance abuse and internet addiction.
Conversely, teens who are depressed or who abuse drugs are also often targets of cyberbullies.
Understanding the link between cyberbullying and health behaviors in adolescence is critical, said the study's lead author, Manuel Gamez-Guadix, Ph.D. of the University of Deusto in Spain.
"A number of adolescents are both victims of cyberbullying and perpetrators of cyberbullying, but victims are at higher risk for psychological and behavior health problems, like substance abuse, after six months of bullying," he stated.
Gamez-Guadix and his colleagues surveyed eight hundred and forty-five students (498 girls and 337 boys) between the ages of 13 and 17 years-old. They found that twenty-four percent had been a victim of one cyberbullying behavior, such as someone sending a threatening or insulting message, 15.9 said they experienced two bullying behaviors and 8 percent were victimized by three cyberbulling behaviors.
Cyberbullying, said the researchers, is a growing problem, especially among adolescents. Hurtful and harassing messages, rumors, inappropriate or fake photos and videos can be easily and frequently posted anonymously in text messages emails or on social networking sites , making them hard to avoid. Messages from cyberbullies are often hard to trace and difficult to delete.
Robert D. Sege, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at Boston University noted, "This is an important study because it contributes to what we already know about cyberbullying. It's pretty clear if you are cyber bullied, you are more apt to be vulnerable to a cluster of non-adaptive behaviors. I found it particularly interesting that if teens are cyber bullied, they are more apt to become depressed, and conversely, if they are depressed, they are more apt to be bullied."
The findings appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.