Cyberbullying involves “sending electronic messages (sometimes anonymously), including text, pictures or videos, aimed at harassing, threatening, excluding or spreading rumors about another person via digital platforms such as online social networks, chat rooms, blogs, instant messaging applications and text messaging.” It is form of harassment that is consistent with traditional bullying in that it entails repeated aggression and an imbalance of power. Cyberbullying can happen anywhere with an internet connection, and the universal increase in technology use among adolescents provides unlimited opportunities to encounter cyberbullying. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 59% of U.S. teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying. Compared to traditional bullying, the effects of cyberbullying on teen mental health are often more significant, because cyberbullying:
- Reaches an unlimited audience with increased exposure across time and space.
- Preserves words and images in a more permanent state.
- Lacks supervision.
Further, experts assert that “perpetrators of cyberbullying do not see the faces of their targets, and subsequently may not understand the full consequences of their actions, thereby decreasing important feelings of personal accountability.” The anonymous and pervasive nature of cyberbullying can intensify its impact, making it challenging for victims to escape the harassment. There are a variety of physical and psychological effects on victims of cyberbullying. The Mayo Clinic explains that targets of cyberbullying may struggle with any combination of the following symptoms:
- Difficulties sleeping.
- Not wanting to go to school.
- Reduced academic performance.
- Acting distracted at home.
- Low mood.
- Reduced self-esteem.
- Feelings of not fitting in or belonging.
As the extent or longevity of cyberbullying increase, more extreme reactions may occur, including:
- Self-harming behaviors such as cutting or burning.
- Thoughts of dropping out of school.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Suicide attempts.
Psychological research confirms that being victimized by a cyberbully increases stress and may result in anxiety and depression symptoms. Any form of bullying can negatively affect the victim’s well-being, both at the time the bullying occurs and in the future. Fortunately, evidence suggests that preventative measures can drastically reduce cyberbullying perpetration and victimization.
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Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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