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Bullying and Depression

October 26, 2012

An interesting article posted on the NIH (National Institute of Health) website reported a study conducted by the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study looked at cyber bullying and the effect it has on a child’s health. It was found that those targeted for cyber bullying are at a greater risk for childhood and adolescent depression. This topic is especially relevant to society in the past ten to fifteen years with the expansion of Internet sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, as well as e-mail and instant messaging. From a sociological perspective, this is a problem that’s arisen from the larger society because of the value we place on sociality and the need to be able to communicate at all times with others via text, e-mail and social networking.

Of course not all social networking is bad, but it has become a convenient outlet for kids to anonymously bully others. The authors in the NIH article explain that, “Traditional forms of bullying involve physical violence, verbal taunts, or social exclusion,” whereas “Cyber bullying…involves aggressive behaviors communicated over a computer or a cell phone.” While it may seem obvious that physical violence or verbal taunts would be more harmful to a child, the study found that because cyber bullying doesn’t allow child victims to see their perpetrator face to face, the child may feel, “isolated, dehumanized or helpless at the time of the attack” (Wang et al. 2010).  The study claimed that the children who were cyber bullied reported feeling more depressed than the perpetrators themselves or those who were bullied face-to-face.

Because childhood is such a crucial developmental period in a person’s life, bullying can affect this development when it becomes a major stressor to a child. A child may live in constant fear of engaging with his or her peers due to a constant worry he or she may be bullied. It’s especially difficult if the child has no social support through peers, a school counselor or his or her family. According to Peggy Thoits, “Social support is a key social coping resource; it consists of emotional, informational, or practical assistants with stressors from significant others such as family or friends” (111). Unfortunately, after chronic stress with no coping mechanism, a child’s mental health will suffer.

My only criticism for this study is that the children were given self-report surveys to evaluate if they were “depressed” or not. As discussed in class, does this survey reflect and explain depression or just normal sadness? How does cyber bullying affect the child in the long run (into adulthood)? I believe a lot more research needs to be done on this somewhat new social phenomenon. Until then, society needs to work much harder on offering social support to children who have been bullied, regardless of the type. 

Lindsay Mesplay

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Hayley Murphy permalink
    November 1, 2012 12:22 am

    This article touches on a subject that is important, and not to mention fascinating to look at in our present society. I think anyone who is a parent or planning on being one someday questions the effect that technology, social media, texting, etc., can have on kids. There is a sense of anonymity when an individual is sitting behind a computer screen and this may lead to an increase in bullying that may not have happened face-to-face. I would argue that there is little question that being bullied as a child or in your teen years affects ones mental health negatively. I agree with Lindsay that our society needs to focus on offering support for all children who are bullied, and we should continue to pay special attention to cyber bullying and how it can be prevented.

    Hayley Murphy

  2. November 2, 2012 1:47 am

    I was really glad to see that you posted on this topic because i just watched a movie the other day on Netflix called Cyberbully that touches on some of the same ideas that this article did. It showed how cyber bullying can lead to humiliation and eventually depression in adolescents. With the ultimate goal of showing how cyber bullying that leads to depression can in turn lead to suicide. Social networking has become extremely popular over the recent years and as it continues to grow so does the instances of bullying. I found myself wondering while I was reading your post if there have been any correlation or statistics that show that the rates of cyber bullying , depression, and increase in social networking are all related. Not to say that all cases of depression are linked to cyber bulling but with the severe increase in Facebook and other sites I would be interested to see how much it has contributed. I definitely agree with the fact that the surveys that were given to the children were a little inappropriate. Just as discussed in class, surveys that are based on community samples are not always getting the context. They may not be capturing other aspects of how or why they are feeling a certain way. Also they may catch them on a day that they are not experiencing sadness or depression.

    Kaitlin Richards

  3. November 9, 2012 4:14 am

    Very interesting article. Its amazing how the impact of cyber bullying can effect someones mental health detrimentally. Most people can relate to the issues covered in the article because we grew up in the internet revolution. Social media is open to the public and engrained within the world wide web. There have been many instances where Cyber bullying eventually lead to suicide. The major problem is that children are accessing social media outlets at younger ages than ever.

    Daniel Roth

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