Cyberbullying increases risk for depression, anger, disassociation
SAN DIEGO — Adolescent mental health conditions may be exacerbated by cyberbullying, particularly among those who have experienced emotional abuse, according to data presented at the American Psychiatric Association meeting.
“We are all aware of the benefits that are associated with the Internet. Through the Internet, our children are able to maintain relationships. They are able to communicate with their friends and are able to develop technical skills,” Samantha B. Saltz, MD, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said during a press briefing. “Despite these benefits, there are a lot of risks associated with the Internet, in particular, social media. The Internet can be a dangerous place where children and adolescents are able to hide behind false identities, speak with strangers, and are at risk for consequences of this. Cyberbullying has resulted in problems for our children and adolescents as severe as suicide. Therefore, we felt we needed to research this topic.”
The CDC reported that 13% to 46% of cyberbullying victims do not know their perpetrator and 22% of perpetrators do not know their victim, according to Saltz.
To identify associations between cyberbullying victimization and social media in adolescents receiving inpatient psychiatric care, researchers analyzed data for 50 psychiatric inpatients aged 13 to 16 years.
Overall, 54% of participants used Facebook at least once a day, 53% used Instagram, 33% used chat rooms and 30% used Twitter.
Twenty percent of participants were victims of cyberbullying, while 6% reported partaking in cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying victims reported Facebook was the greatest outlet for cyberbullying, followed by Instagram, Twitter, and chat rooms. None reported email as a cyberbullying outlet.
Cyberbullying was associated with depression, dissociation and anger symptoms.
Previous emotional abuse was significantly associated with cyberbullying. Conversely, physical and sexual abuse and physical and emotional neglect were not significantly associated with cyberbullying.
“Cyberbullying can lead to significant mental health impairments in our children and adolescents. This suggests that children who are admitted to an inpatient psychiatric ward and are victims of cyberbullying have increased risk of depression, increased anger disorders and increased disassociation symptoms than those who aren’t victims of cyberbullying. We would anticipate those being admitted to an inpatient psychiatric ward would have higher levels of depression and anger at baseline. So, cyberbullying can exacerbate their existing mental health pathology,” Saltz said.
“Additionally, we need education. We need to educate our youth about how to effectively engage in social media and how to effectively and safely use technology. That means not only educating children and adolescents themselves but their parents, schools, and counselors so we can keep our children safe. Additional research is needed,” Saltz said. – by Amanda Oldt
Saltz SB, et al. Cyberbullying linked with depression, emotional abuse. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 20-24, 2017; San Diego.
Disclosure: Healio.com/Psychiatry could not confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.