A Dangerous New Twist on Cyberbullying

From Drugs.com - November 8, 2017

A Dangerous New Twist on Cyberbullying

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 8, 2017 -- As if the idea of teen cyberbullying is not harrowing enough, a new study warns of a strange twist in which kids anonymously post hurtful messages -- to themselves.

The worry is that this digital self-harm -- like traditional self-harm -- may be a harbinger for suicide down the road, the study authors said.

In the first survey of its kind, the nationally representative group of nearly 5,600 U.S. high school students was asked about "self-cyberbullying." The kids were all between the ages of 12 and 17. And about 6 percent said they had engaged in the practice.

The risk for doing so was highest among those who had previously been victims of cyberbullying or bullying themselves.

"We define 'digital self-harm' as the anonymous online posting, sending, or otherwise sharing of hurtful content about oneself," said study lead author Sameer Hinduja.

He co-directs Florida Atlantic University's Cyberbullying Research Center, in Boca Raton.

"It is not specific to any particular online environment," Hinduja said. "It can occur through SMS [texting], email, social media, gaming consoles, web forums, virtual environments, and any other online platform yet to be conceived.

"A little more than 7 percent of boys and 5 percent of girls were found to engage in digital self-harm," he added.

While these percentages are not large, "they do indicate a problem when extrapolated out to the millions of teens in the U.S.," Hinduja said

The pool of high school participants in the study was evenly divided between boys and girls. Nearly 350 teens said they had posted something mean about themselves online.

Boys were "significantly" more likely to have done so than girls. Race and age did not seem to affect risk.

Kids who identified as gay were about three times more likely to say they had cyberbullied themselves or posted something unkind about themselves, the researchers found.

About half the digital self-harmers had done it just once. Over a third had done it multiple times, and 13 percent had done it many times, the study found.

Almost half offered explanations as to why they did it. The explanations included self-hate; wanting attention; wanting to appear victimized to justify cyberbullying others; feeling depressed or suicidal; trying to be funny or make fun of themselves; and boredom.


Continue reading at Drugs.com »