Course excerpt from Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is intentional, repeated harm to another person using communication technology. Any communication device may be used to harass or intimidate a victim, such as a cell phone, tablet, or computer. Any communication platform may host cyberbullying: social media sites (Facebook, Twitter), applications (Snapchat, AIM), websites (forums or blogs), and any place where one person can communicate with – or at – another person electronically. The short and long-term effects of bullying are considered as significant as neglect or maltreatment as a type of child abuse (Takizawa, 2014).
Cyberbullying does not happen in a vacuum. The victim has other life events that impact emotional and social functioning. The effects of cyberbullying should be viewed in the light of other childhood adversities: abuse, neglect, family dysfunction, loss of a parent, and other life-changing events (Takizawa, 2014). Research has been able to identify patterns of effects due to cyberbullying, some of which last for a lifetime.
In a review of research on cyberbullying, Kowalski and colleagues (2014) found the effects of experiencing cyberbullying include the following:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Substance abuse
- Decreased performance in school, absenteeism, and dropping out of school
- Increased physical symptoms
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP, 2011) also noted that bullying could result in somatic issues such as headaches and stomach aches, as well as eating disorders, alcohol and drug use.
Barlett (2014a) found similar results, with anger, sadness, fearfulness, as well as increased aggressive behavior found in victims of cyberbullying. Kowalski also found a link between an increase in symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety related to duration of hours spent on the Internet. The authors note that the directionality of this association “clearly bears scrutiny, but the association appears robust.” It would seem that more time online would increase the person’s risk of exposure to bullying behavior, with its negative emotional consequences.
Sampasa-Kanyinga (2014) noted a reciprocal relationship between bullying victimization and depression. The authors state, “Bullying victimization can cause depression, and depressive symptoms may place some youths at increased risk for victimization.” Victims who also bully others are at a higher risk of depression (Copeland, 2013). Copeland also found bully-victims exhibited increased generalized anxiety and panic. Female bully-victims in particular were at risk for agoraphobia.
Not surprisingly, school age students may avoid school due to bullying. Many students reported skipping school due to safety concerns. Steiner (2014) found that high school students who experienced bullying in person or online were far more likely to miss school, as you can see from these results:
- 21% of high school students bullied both in person and electronically reported missing school due to safety concerns
- 13% of those bullied in-person only missed school
- 11% of those bullied electronically only missed school
As a comparison, 4% of students who had not been bullied missed school due to safety concerns. Steiner notes that the results are equivalent to more than half a million of the 16 million enrolled high school students missing school days because they were afraid of being bullied at school.
The effects of childhood bullying can be felt as the victim ages. Copeland (2013) reported psychiatric symptoms in adult victims of bullying that included depression, antisocial personality disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation as well as suicide attempts. In a longitudinal study of over 7,700 people who were bullied as children, Takizawa (2014) found significant psychiatric distress in bullying victims during follow-up at ages 23 and 50. Depression, anxiety, and suicidality were increased, and were especially evident in those who were bullied frequently. Cognitive functioning was negatively affected, even after controlling for childhood IQ.
Takizawa also found that the long-lasting effects of bullying included the risk for decreased social relationships, economic difficulty, and poor quality of life. The risk was similar to children placed in foster care or who experienced multiple childhood adversities. Adults who were bullied as children were more likely to have lower educational levels and men had higher unemployment rates. These adults also had a high risk of living without a partner or spouse. They were less likely to have met with friends in the recent past, and reported fewer social supports.
It was interesting that this long-term study as well as Copeland’s (2013) results did not find a risk of alcohol dependence as a result of childhood bullying. The authors theorize that peer influence guides teens into drinking behavior. Since bullying victims are less exposed to peer influences in this way, alcohol abuse may be less of a risk.
The overall effects seen in long-term follow-up are thought to be partially a result of re-victimization. Finkelhor (2007) studied children exposed to violence and found that victimization of one type can lead to a significant risk of vulnerability to other types of victimization.
Cyberbullying is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that reviews evidenced-based research for identification, management and prevention of cyberbullying in children, adolescents and adults. Bullies have moved from the playground and workplace to the online world, where anonymity can facilitate bullying behavior. Cyberbullying is intentional, repeated harm to another person using communication technology. It is not accidental or random. It is targeted to a person with less perceived power. This may be someone younger, weaker, or less knowledgeable about technology. Any communication device may be used to harass or intimidate a victim, such as a cell phone, tablet, or computer. Any communication platform may host cyberbullying: social media sites (Facebook, Twitter), applications (Snapchat, AIM), websites (forums or blogs), and any place where one person can communicate with – or at – another person electronically. The short and long-term effects of bullying are considered as significant as neglect or maltreatment as a type of child abuse. This course will describe specific cyberbullying behaviors, review theories that attempt to explain why bullying happens, list the damaging effects that befall its victims, and discuss strategies professionals can use to prevent or manage identified cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a fast-growing area of concern and all healthcare professionals should be equipped to spot the signs and provide support for our patients and clients, as well as keep up with the technology that drives cyberbullying. Course #21-09 | 2016 | 32 pages | 20 posttest questions
This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.
Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).
Cyberbully image created by Jcomp – Freepik.com