Connecticut Families Extra: How bad is cyber-bullying for mental health?

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — Have you ever been picked on because of how you talked, looked, or dressed?

USC Developmental Psychologist Brendesha Tynes and her colleagues surveyed 559 students in grades six through 12 to learn more about their experiences with online bullying. The social scientists wanted to know if cyber-victimization leads to poor mental health or if people experiencing depression and anxiety are more likely to be bullied.

“The answer is it’s both,” Tynes said. “If you are depressed, it could lead to more cyber-victimization and also cyber-victimization leads to depression.”

The researchers surveyed the students at three different time points. Students who reported high levels of online bullying at time point one, also reported high levels of depressive symptoms at time point three.

Students who said they had high levels of depressive symptoms at time point one, reported high levels of online bullying at time point two. Those with high levels of depression at time two also reported more cyber-victimization at time point three.

Tynes says parents can support their child’s mental health by pointing out their strengths with others. Say, “you’re really good at thinking about how others might feel.” or, “you’re really standing up for people.”

Don’t be tempted to ban phone or computer use.

“It’s better to have them manage the experience than take away the device,” Tynes said.

The authors say the findings suggest parents, teachers, and schools need to continue creating guidelines for online behavior that gives students strategies for protecting themselves and procedures for reporting incidents. For more information or additional resources, you can go to www.stop-bullying.gov.

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