Cyberbullying is a new form of bullying that takes place online.
It might not be physically damaging, like an actual fight on the playground, but the effects can be even more detrimental.
Kids and young adults targeted by cyberbullies appear to be twice as likely to hurt themselves or to attempt suicide than their non-bullied counterparts, a new study finds.
Cyberbullies also prone to suicide
Cyberbullies themselves aren't immune, either. They're also more likely to have suicidal thoughts and take suicidal actions, the British researchers said.
It's not clear, however, whether cyberbullying directly causes suicidal behaviour or whether the link between the two is more complicated.
The study included more than 150 000 kids and young adults from 30 countries. The researchers followed them for over 21 years.
People who were bullied online were more likely to become cyberbullies themselves, the research revealed. And boys who were both bullies and victims were at an especially high risk of depression and suicidal behaviour.
"Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies," researcher Paul Montgomery of the University of Birmingham, said in a university news release.
Schools should also focus on broader concepts, such as digital citizenship and online peer support for victims, Montgomery said. Schools might also teach how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene, along with more specific interventions, such as how to contact mobile phone companies and internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users.
"Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying programme," he said, "and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness-raising and training for staff and pupils."
Cyberbullying in South Africa
A News24 article reported that cyberbullying is also on the rise in South Africa as the presence of social media and technology grows. A survey by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention in 2012 found high levels of aggression among youth in SA, and there are blurred lines between the victim and the perpetrator.
How to support your teen
A Health24 article has stated that one in five South African teens has suicidal ideation. You can support your child by doing the following:
- Don't take any talk of suicide lightly. Listen carefully to what your teenager is saying.
- Tell your teenager that you might not know what he or she is feeling, but that you are there for support.
- Educate yourself on the signs of depression and know when there is a significant change in your teenager's behaviour.
- Contact an accredited psychiatrist or consult the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) for more information.
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