Kids and young adults targeted by cyberbullies appear to be twice as likely to hurt themselves or to attempt suicide than their non-bullied counterparts, a new study finds.
Cyberbullies themselves aren’t immune, either. They’re also more likely to have suicidal thoughts and take suicidal actions, the British researchers said.
It’s not clear, however, whether cyberbullying directly causes suicidal behavior or whether the link between the two is more complicated.
The study included more than 150,000 kids and young adults from 30 countries. The researchers followed them for over 21 years.
People who were bullied online were more likely to become cyberbullies themselves, the research revealed. And boys who were both bullies and victims were at an especially high risk of depression and suicidal behavior.
“Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies,” researcher Paul Montgomery of the University of Birmingham, said in a university news release.
Schools should also focus on broader concepts, such as digital citizenship and online peer support for victims, Montgomery said. Schools might also teach how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene, along with 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 program,” he said, “and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness-raising and training for staff and pupils.”
For more about cyberbullying, visit stopbullying.gov.