The Effects of Cyberbullying on Mental Health

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 42% of teens say they have been called offensive names online or via their cellphone. About one-third have been the victim of false rumors online, and about 16% have been the target of physical threats.

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What is Cyberbullying?

The bullying in today’s world can vastly differ from the bullying of the past. Sadly, bullying now goes far beyond in-person, verbal, or physical attacks. Now, bullying does not end when school lets out. 

Generally, traditional bullying is unprovoked, deliberate, and often aggressive repetitive behavior by an individual toward a victim to cause them harm. Similar behavior occurs in cyberbullying, but cyberbullying is defined as using electronic communication to threaten, harass, or humiliate another individual. In other words, bullying in the digital space via electronic devices.  

Social Media & Cyberbullying

It is worth noting that with the implementation of social media came an explosion of cyberbullying simply because the opportunity increased drastically. Social media platforms offer a free and open environment for cyberbullies to target victims with threats, offensive comments, and edited or photoshopped photos or videos, all shared outside the victim’s control and without their consent. 

Signs of Cyberbullying 

It is essential to be aware of the possible signs and changes in behavior for a victim of cyberbullying. The effects of cyberbullying can cause drastic, gradual, or sometimes immediate changes in your child’s behavior. 

The following can be strong indicators of cyberbullying:

  • Isolation from family and friends (e.g., spending more time in their room than usual); 
  • Decline in social interaction (e.g., avoiding friends or social events);
  • Becoming withdrawn and quiet when typically boisterous and outspoken;
  • Difficulty concentrating on schoolwork;
  • Grades slipping;
  • Appearing angry or upset when on their phone, computer, or tablet;
  • Hiding their phone or other electronic devices;
  • Sudden avoidance of their phone;
  • Lost interest in sports or activities they typically enjoy;
  • Using drugs or alcohol;
  • Asking to stay home from school or skipping school without permission;
  • Expressing dark thoughts or emotions; and
  • Talking about suicide or harming themselves. 

This list is not all-inclusive, and you may notice other behavior changes due to cyberbullying. You may also see one or several changes in behavior. Some may be immediately apparent, while others will emerge or worsen over time. 

Long-Term & Short-Term Effects

There are many effects of cyberbullying, some immediate and others long-term. 

Long-term effects of cyberbullying can lead to victims having trouble forming relationships, fostering healthy relationships, and being unable to trust people. 

Generally, cyberbullying effects can be classified into four categories: psychological, emotional, mental, and physical.

Psychological Effects

The psychological effects of cyberbullying can be catastrophic and long-lasting. It is common for victims to experience a wide range of emotions, including anger, sadness, embarrassment, sorrow, and fear. The feeling of being alone and isolated can lead to issues with low self-esteem and self-harm. 

Emotional Effects

Cyberbullying can make victims afraid to socialize, interact, trust, and form relationships.  

The emotional toll of cyberbullying can lead to depression, embarrassment, guilt, and shame.

Mental Effects

The mental repercussions of cyberbullying can be severe in the long term and often lead to other negative consequences. Cyberbullying can impact a victim’s ability to concentrate at school or on homework and may get so bad they do not want to attend school at all. 

The mental effects of cyberbullying often include, among other things:

  • Inability to concentrate,
  • High stress and anxiety,
  • Self-harming habits, and
  • Thoughts of suicide.

The effects of online bullying on an individual’s mental health can be significant and may cascade into other issues.

Physical Effects of Cyberbullying

Many people often do not realize that the consequences of cyberbullying can go far beyond the mental and psychological effects. The physical effects, such as headaches, stomachaches, and sleeping problems, caused by cyberbullying are real and can be detrimental to overall health and well-being. The physical impacts can make it difficult to proceed with your daily activities and responsibilities. 

While a significant amount of cyberbullying victims are teenagers and children, adults are not immune to online bullying, especially with the use of social media. Adults, too, can experience similar short-term and long-term effects from cyberbullying.

Consequences of Cyberbullying

Teenagers are the most likely to be victims of cyberbullying. In fact, about 37% of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online. They are likely to experience a variety of adverse effects from cyberbullying.

Collateral Victims

While the target of cyberbullying is the apparent victim, there can be several other collateral victims, including the victim’s family and friends. Witnesses to cyberbullying, including the victim’s loved ones, often worry, feel helpless, scared, and sad. It can lead to trouble sleeping, trouble eating, anxiety, and depression of their own. 

New Jersey Cyberbullying Lawyers

To learn more about the effects of cyberbullying on mental health, contact us at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble. We can refer you to additional resources. If you believe you or someone you love is the victim of cyberbullying and can benefit from legal help, we are here for you. We were named one of U.S. News & Worlds Report’s Best Law Firms of 2021 for a reason. We prioritize our clients and treat each with personalized attention. Contact us today to discuss how we can meet your needs. 

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