Cyber bullying and depression go hand in hand: Frequent reason for online bullying is relationship issues, with girls being targeted in majority.

The median percentage of adolescents and children reported to have been victims of cyber bullying was 23 percent. According to a review article on social media studies, published in JAMA Paediatrics, a consistent association was seen between episodes of online bullying and reports of depression.

Social media plays a very integral role in the lives of children today. Reports indicate that 95 percent of teenagers in America use the Internet, out of which 81 percent are avidly involved in social media. However, these online encounters pose significant risks of safety, crimes and cyber bullying.

Conducting The Review

Michele P. Hamm, Ph.D., from the University of Alberta, Canada, along with co-authors reviewed 36 studies to investigate whether online bullying via social media had health-related affects on children and adolescents. A majority of the studies were from the US, comprising of middle and high-school children between the ages of 12 and 18, mostly of which were female.  Social media included blogs, social networking websites, Twitter and online message boards. Common forms of online bullying were name-calling, spreading gossip, circulating private or unethical pictures. General strategies mentioned by children and adolescents for coping with such episodes included blocking the sender, ignoring or avoiding the content and increasing privacy settings.

Cyber Bullying: Interpreting The Results

Facebook was the most common platform used for social interactions – almost 97 percent of social media users had an account. Results of the review revealed that 23 percent of students had been cyber-bullied, although reports of this occurring ranged from 4.8 to 73.5 percent. The most frequently seen reason for online bullying was relationship issues, with girls being targeted in a majority. More significantly, the review indicated that episodes of cyber bullying were consistently related to an increased risk of depression. Certain studies also reported a weak correlation between cyber bullying and issues of anxiety. Sadly, most of the students reported that they could do very little to stop or reduce online bullying.

Conclusion

It was noted that considerable differences existed between the definitions, techniques and results that were used in the 36 studies reviewed by the authors.

“Cyber bullying has emerged as a primary concern in terms of safety, and, while publications remain inconclusive regarding its effects on mental health, there is some evidence to suggest that there are associations of harms with exposure to cyber bullying and cyber bullying behaviour. This review provides important information characterizing the issue of cyber bullying that may help establish strategies for prevention and management, including attributes of the recipients and perpetrators, reasons for and the nature of bullying behaviours, and how recipients currently react to and manage bullying behaviours,” concludes the review.