Times have changed. When I was in junior high school and high school, no one had a cell phone, no one was texting, or sexting, for that matter. We had to pass notes in class or actually speak to each other to get a message across. Today, electronic technology has completely turned the world of communication upside-down. We can be so interconnected without being physically together with the advent of cell phones, laptops, tablets and social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat – just to name a few. Everyone has a cell phone! And if you don’t have one, You’re just not hip (Am I dating myself by using the word ‘hip?’).
Times have changed to even another degree. In my last blog, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Princess Kate caught my attention when discussing their campaign to increase awareness about mental illness. They spoke about how hard it must be to be a teenager today immersed in social media, apps, and sites like FaceBook that create feelings of inadequacy and/or depression. As we know, many of the posts on the social media sites show happy times – travel, social festivities or adventures. Yes, I am guilty of this myself. I tend not to post events that I find depressing or uninspiring. This may lead us all to a false sense of reality – everyone else’s life is better than our own. Just look what they are doing and how much fun they are having, right?
This led me to think about how social media and technology, specifically cyberbullying, and its association with mental illness. After much research, I came across a highly informative pdf from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that first looked at the association of bullying and suicide.
Research compiled by the CDC has shown that:
Youth with disabilities, learning differences, sexual/gender identity differences, cultural differences are often most vulnerable to being bullied. Yet other conditions can also trigger bullying such as lesser athletic skills.
I remember during my childhood school days, some of the kids were never picked to be on the “Team.” I was pretty athletic and usually was chosen within the first two or three rounds, but I dreaded seeing the faces of those that never got picked – they “had” to go on one of the teams and I vividly remember hearing the moans from my fellow team members.
- Youth who report being frequently being bullied are at high, long-term risk for suicide-related behavior, in addition to higher rates of mental illness including: depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Being a recipient of this behavior also leads to other mental and physical health problems.
- Being witness to bullying also has serious and long-lasting negative effects on youth, experiencing greater feelings of helplessness and less connectedness to school and social activities compared to those who did not witness bullying.
What Do We Know About the “Bullies?”
The majority of bullies are often trying to fit in, have serious insecurities, and/or are reacting to stress, abuse or other issues at home or school. Also, they may feel powerless internally, but externally, exert a sense of control or domination over others. Bullying behavior is an important indicator for mental health services and evaluation. I watched a series of bullying and cyberbullying videos in utter disbelief…and this one in particular shows the depths of the disgraceful behavior exhibited by bullies:
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that works using electronic technology – cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc. Aggressive behavior can be transmitted through text messages, e-mails, rumors posted on social networking sites and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites or fake profiles.
Much more research and attention is now being turned to cyberbullying. (americanspcc.org)
In 2014: 14.8% of students reported being cyberbullied. These included being bullied through e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, websites or texting.
In 2011, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that 16% of high school students ( grades 9-12) had been electronically bullied in the past year.
What is the Difference between Bullying and Cyberbullying?
Both are unwanted aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a power struggle. With bullying, this behavior is done in person via threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone to intentionally cause them emotional distress. Cyberbullying is this same behavior but implemented using technology.
Cyberbullying has an even greater impact on youth and mental illness because it is harder for kids to get away from the behavior. This is due to the following factors:
- It can happen anytime – 24 hours/7 days a week. Technology is always “on.” Cyberbullies can reach their victims at any time of day or night.
- Hateful, damaging messages and images can be posted anonymously and spread quickly and broadly to many audiences.
- Trying to delete these messages, texts, etc. can be a daunting task and many times, inappropriate or harassing messages can’t ever be removed.
Even though the topic of this article is based on “Cyberbullying,” my research led me to many videos surrounding bullying that I have never heard of and they are videos that everyone needs to see.
In this video, Ellen Degeneres Discusses bullying with a teen’s parents who took his own life. Ellen spent so much time talking to these two parents from the documentary “Bully,” the producers didn’t have time to put all of it in the show. You can see their entire conversation right here.
Watch the trailer for the movie “Bully”
In next week’s blog, we will explore further on the close association between bullying behavior and suicide related behavior. What are your thoughts or comments about this “epidemic?” Please share and be part of the conversation. Remember, it is #OKToSay.
In health and happiness,