July 27, 2015 —

Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at how teens are affected by cyberbullying.

Social media terms like “Facebook status,” “tweet” and “hashtag” have become a part of everyday vocabulary. We use these networks to chat with our friends, upload pictures from family trips and keep up with the latest news. Today, 95% of children and teens use the internet and 22% visit their favorite social media site over ten times a day. Unfortunately, the overwhelming use of these platforms means some teens have experienced the negative interactions these online communities can facilitate.

Parents used to primarily worry about their children getting picked on by their classmates at school or during other face-to-face social encounters. However, with the evolution of the Internet, bullying has invaded the digital space. In fact, according to a recent review of social media studies, 23% of children and adolescents are affected by online bullying on social media sites.

The goal of this review, as published in JAMA Pediatrics, was to analyze existing publications that examined the health-related effects of cyberbullying via social media among children and adolescents. Thirty-six studies from 34 different publications were reviewed. Most of the studies were conducted in the United States and included adolescents who were 12 to 18 years of age. Specifically, the research explored how online harassment correlated to depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and more.

Ultimately, the review identified several trends with regard to cyberbullying. Girls were found most likely to be victims of online attacks, usually due to relationship problems. The most typical kinds of abuse towards both girls and boys included spreading gossip, name-calling and sharing pictures. Bullied teens said they would typically use temporary solutions to defend themselves, like “blocking” their bully, but many victims felt there wasn’t much they could do to combat these attacks. Ten studies included in this review concluded that there was a strong correlation between online abuse and teen depression. Moreover, the ability for abusers to become anonymous on the Internet can allow cyberbullying to continue, to occur more severely and to cause increased feelings of helplessness.

As parents, it’s important to know how our teens are interacting with their peers online. We also need to teach teens that online bullying is just as harmful as traditional bullying. At this vital time in our teen’s lives, it’s essential that we teach our teens how to appropriately deal with online harassment. It can be tough sometimes, but simply letting your teen know that you care can make a huge difference. Talk to your teen about the short- and long-term effects of online harassment as well as prevention and management techniques.

You can read more about the review of these studies here. What advice have you given your teen in cyberbullying situations? Please share with us in the comments below!