Cyberbullying makes young people twice as likely to self harm or attempt suicide

Sarah Knapton
Masie Williams in the Channel 4 drama The Cyberbully - Channel 4

Cyberbullying makes young people more than twice as likely to self harm or attempt suicide, a major new study has shown.

The growth of social media has left many youngsters vulnerable to online bullying, which can include sending threatening, humiliating of intimidating messages or posting hurtful comments or images.

Around one third of young people claim to have been victims, but the new research suggests it can have damaging and deadly consequences.

Researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Swansea and Birmingham reviewed previous studies on cyberbullying which involved more than 150,000 under-25s across 30 countries over a 21-year period.

They found that cyberbullying raised the risk of self-harm or suicidal behaviour 2.3 times.

Professor Ann John, of Swansea University Medical School, who led the study, said: “Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene; and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users

“Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying programme and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils”.

Around one third of young people claim to have been bullied online  Credit: Getty Images Contributor 

The researchers say that young people who are involved in cyberbullying should be screened for common mental disorders and self harm.

The study also found a strong link between being a cyber-victim and being a perpetrator. This duality was found to particularly put males at higher risk of depression and suicidal behaviours.

Perpetrators were also around 20 per cent more liked to have self-harmed or attempted suicide than non-bullies.

The research also found that students who were cyber-victimised were less likely to report and seek help than those victimised by more traditional mean.

The research was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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