Are underlying problems like ADHD involved?
The July issue of Archives of General Psychiatry reports a study that finds teens who “cyberbully” others via the Internet or cell phones are more likely to suffer from both physical and psychiatric troubles. Additionally, their victims are at heightened risk from both physical and psychiatric troubles.
The research team was led by Dr. Andre Sourander, from Turku University, Finland, defines cyberbullying as aggressive, intentional, repeated acts using mobile phones, computers (including e-mails and Facebook) or other electronic media against victims who cannot easily defend themselves.
The study is relevant to current trends in the use of electronic media by teens. Researchers at the JFK Medical Center say that the average teenager sends a total of over 3,400 electronic [text] messages every month or surfs the Internet at bedtime. In January of 2011, national media focused on the death of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince. Prince, a Massachusetts teen, committed suicide after months of relentless cyberbullying.
The online Healthgrades.com site reports a recent U.S. survey of children aged 10 to 17 found that 12 percent were “aggressive” to someone else while online, 4 percent were victims of this type of online aggression, while 3 percent reported being both aggressors and targets.
The national spotlight on these trends has caused many parents to become increasingly concerned about both cyberbullying and their children’s Internet safety.
To evaluate cyberbullying, Sourander and team surveyed almost 2,500 teens. More than 7 percent of teens reported that they bullied other teens online. Almost 5 percent said they were targets of cyberbullies while 5.4 percent said they were both bullies and bullied.
The researchers’ data were quite compelling; teens who were victims of cyberbullying were more likely to come from broken homes and felt unsafe at school. Furthermore, they also had problems with concentration (ADHD), emotional problems, sleeping problems, and behavioral problems. The teens reported that they found it difficult to associate with their peers and were often prone to headaches and abdominal discomfort. It was quite apparent that psychological trauma was induced by cyberbullying.
Oddly, the cyberbullies had their own problems; they too were also more prone to suffer from problems with concentration (ADHD), emotional problems, sleeping problems, and behavioral problems. They too, found it difficult to associate with their peers. Cyberbullies also frequently smoked or got drunk, reported headaches, and were more prone to not feeling safe at school.
The researchers noted that cyberbullying was different than physical bullying. Physical bullying typically remains confined to school grounds or public places like the mall. Cyberbullies have an increased power and effect as they can bully 24 hours a day, seven days a week if so compelled. This relentless attack seems to affect both the cyberbully as well as the victim.
It is important to discuss this behavior with your child. That discussion should set stric