Sad teen sitting on the floor.

Cyberbullying 2021: Bullying Can Cause Serious Mental Health Issues

by Screen Time Team on 03/02/2021

Overview: Cyberbullying has been connected with negative mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, ADHD symptoms, and suicidal ideation. It can also cause negative psychosocial outcomes such as low self-esteem, lower sociality, and increased instances of bullying others.

Why Do People Engage in Cyberbulling?

To some degree, what you remember from your days in school, that the people who didn’t fit in for whatever reason were the most picked on, still holds true. Yet why do bullies pop up online?

Among teens, research is beginning to emerge that it conveys a degree of social status among those they see as their peers. This is probably unsurprising to anybody who remembers real-life bullying from their own childhood, but it makes it difficult to stop unless there are real-world consequences attached.

What Are the Mental Health Concerns Around Cyberbullying?

Studies like this one around cyberbullying have found it contributes to a number of negative mental health outcomes, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility and aggression
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-harm
  • ADHD symptoms
  • Suicidalitoday

In addition, there are psychosocial outcomes like low self-esteem, stress, less sociality. In some cases, bullying victims begin bullying others. The question of why these outcomes are prevalent is under debate. We don’t yet fully understand why even adults manifest these symptoms.

When assessing the effects of bullying on your child, keep in mind that it’s normal to be upset for a time when someone is rude or cruel online. It’s when the bullying is sustained, or when it causes behavior changes, that parents should be worried.

Sad teen looking at her phone.

Managing and Defeating Cyberbullies

There are steps parents and kids can take to protect against online bullying. Here are a few recommendations:

Limit access to potential sources of bullying. Teens have a lot to do anyway, so creating a schedule and enforcing when some apps can be used can limit kids’ exposure to bullying.

Document, block, and report. Teens should know that when somebody harasses them, they should tell you, document the harassment, block the person, and report them to the app or site’s abuse team. Reporting the abuse may be of limited help, but it’s a start, and retaining documentation helps build a case if the harassment continues.

Create “friend rules.” Apps and sites should be configured so kids only interact with people they’ve approved as friends, which should be people they know in real life. That way, if there’s an issue, it can be taken offline and discussed in the “real” world.

Teach kids about toxic relationships. Many cyberbullies present themselves as “friends.” Teach kids to look at what they do, not what they say, and how they say it. These are also useful life skills they’ll find widely applicable. As we all know, not every bully “grows out of it.”

Dealing with cyberbullying is everyone’s concern, and parental control software like Screen Time can help. To learn more, try it for free!

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