The long-term effects of cyberbullying

Published: Tuesday 8th November 2016 by Rich Sutherland

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To help school and home life run as smoothly as possible for children, HEY Today and KCOM are supporting an eight-week cyberbullying awareness campaign run by Internet Matters.

Each week, we’ll share tips and advice on a unique topic, with this particular article focusing on how the effects of cyberbullying can last long after the event.

This is because the experience of online harassment or intimidation can be extremely damaging to a young person’s life. Although social media arguments and keyboard warriors may be easy to dismiss, cyberbullying is a very serious matter.

Children often feel like they are unable to escape the victimisation, as it’s occurring via the technology they rely on each day. If not identified and prevented, cyberbullying can have very negative consequences on an individual’s confidence, communication skills and overall health.

If you suspect that your child or a pupil in your class is being bullied, please read our article on how to deal with the issue.

Many victims struggle with social interactions

Cyberbullying can have a detrimental impact on a young person’s ability to interact with others. The harassment that they endure online could lead to decreased trust in their friends, teachers and even members of the family. It’s important to talk through these issues with the victim.

They may also experience a long-term lack of self-confidence, especially if the bullying was directed at a certain aspect of their identity, image or personality. Insecurities are often exacerbated by a bullying incident, and cyberbullying is no exception.

If not taken care of quickly, all of the above could result in poor social and interpersonal skills. If this happens, your son or daughter will be unable to interact with their peers properly during adulthood, which will only further intensify the aforementioned issues.

Some children who are cyberbullied will act out

If cyberbullying is not prevented or dealt with correctly, victims may also begin to misbehave.

On the one hand, if they see that antisocial behaviour has no consequences, they may feel that it is okay to treat others badly. On the other hand, it could result in antisocial behaviour being used as a cry for help or attention.

This could lead to low self-esteem and depression

A young person’s mental health can also be in jeopardy after a cyberbullying incident.

The Cyberbullying Research Centre found that victims of online harassment are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. Meanwhile, a recent study by the US National Institutes of Health discovered that victims of cyberbullying showed more signs of depression than those of all other forms of bullying.

Self-loathing, negative thoughts and melancholy are very common, even years after the bullying has ended. Not only can this have an extremely damaging effect on an individual’s mental health, such as self-harm and suicidal thoughts, but depression often physically manifests too. Fatigue, insomnia and headaches are common symptoms of poor mental health.

When these factors combine, a young person who has been bullied online for any amount of time could end up struggling at school or even in their future career and personal life. If an adult has low confidence and poor communication skills, their standard of living, friendships and social engagement can often suffer.

This is why it is so important as parents and teachers to put preventative measures against cyberbullying in place, ensuring that they remain adaptable.

Lack of empathy towards others

Again, if the problem is not identified and prevented, a cyberbullying victim is less likely to feel empathy towards another.

If they believe that a bully was not reprimanded for their behaviour, a victim could be unsure of the balance between right and wrong. This absence of sympathy towards someone in a similar situation can snowball, resulting in an individual becoming numb towards the wellbeing of others.

It’s not just the victims who are affected

By preventing a cyberbullying incident, you could also be helping the bully to improve their quality of life. A 2013 study by JAMA Psychiatry found that both bullies and their victims have an increased risk of depression, as well as behavioural, educational, and emotional problems.

Are you a parent or teacher who suspects that a child you know is a victim of cyberbullying, or bullying another child online? If so, please read our articles on common types of cyberbullying and how to tell if your child is being bullied.

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Published: Tuesday 8th November 2016 by Rich Sutherland

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