Cyberbullying Increases Suicide Risk
When I was a kid, being bullied was a very different experience than it is today. The efforts of bullies were limited to the tools of that time which included talking negatively about you, writing notes, and physical intimidation. Today bullies have the internet doing their dirty work for them 24/7. Cyberbullying ups the stakes and consequences in several ways. The way that information is spread rapidly and to so many via social media increases the feeling in the victim that “everyone” knows. Picture something you did in Junior High that you might wish you could take back. Now picture it in video form on YouTube. I’m thankful that I didn’t grow up with smart phones at the ready to take photos and video at any moment. Another consequence of cyberbullying is the permanency of it. Items posted online are written in ink. An industry has popped up to improve an individual’s online reputation, but the negative content cannot be removed completely. One’s best hope is to have the negative overshadowed by positive postings thus moving the negative content beyond the first page of search results. Cyberbullying is also more difficult for schools to police as it occurs on personal devices and off of campus grounds. For those who are bullied, there is no respite since the internet does not stop for the holiday or Summer break.
When you look at all of these factors, it’s unfortunately no surprise that a recent study found an increase in thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts in teens who reported being victimized by cyberbullying. The study found that cyberbullying was a bigger contributing factor to suicidal ideation than traditional in-person bullying. A related study found that teens who began having sex before age 13, experienced rape, or had four or more previous partners also reported high rates of suicidal thoughts and/or attempts than the general population of the same age, 13-17 years old. Many times, the information used for cyberbullying is of a sexual nature. One could guess that teens who are bullied online and have one of the sex-related risk factors listed above are at severe risk for thoughts of suicide or a suicide attempt.
Here in Oklahoma, an organization has been formed to stop bullying. BOOST stands for Bully proof Our Oklahoma Schools Today. BOOST seeks to educate parents, teachers and students on how to stop bullying. Click here for more information on BOOST.
Click here for further reading on the study referenced in this blog.