• Cyberbullying is a disturbing online phenomenon, involving hurtful and threatening messages.
  • Various forms of cyberbullying include harassment, flaming, doxing, impersonation, and more.
  • Cyberbullying leads to mental effects like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and isolation.
  • It has social impacts such as strained relationships, a negative school climate, and potential legal consequences.
  • Preventing cyberbullying requires education, parental involvement, safe reporting mechanisms, mental health support, consequences, cyber literacy, and online civility campaigns.

In today’s interconnected world, the internet has brought many benefits, but it has also given rise to a disturbing phenomenon: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a pervasive form of harassment that occurs online through digital platforms such as social media, messaging apps, and email. It involves the use of technology to target individuals with hurtful, threatening, or embarrassing messages, often repeatedly. 

By gaining insight into this digital form of bullying and learning how to provide support, we can create safer online spaces, foster empathy, and help those who are suffering find the strength and resources they need to overcome the emotional turmoil caused by cyberbullying. Ultimately, our collective understanding and support can make a significant difference in the lives of those affected, promoting a more compassionate and connected online world.

What Is Cyberbullying?

As explained above, cyberbullying is a form of virtual harassment that can take various forms, including spreading rumors, sharing private information or photos, and sending hurtful comments.

While cyberbullying can happen to individuals of any age, victims are typically young adolescents or children with social media accounts. The following are different types of cyberbullying that can occur:

  • Harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive or threatening messages, emails, or comments to the victim.
  • Flaming: Engaging in hostile and aggressive online arguments or discussions with the intent to provoke and upset the target.
  • Outing: Sharing the victim’s private or personal information, such as secrets, photos, or videos, without consent.
  • Doxing: Publishing the victim’s real-life identity, including their address, phone number, or workplace, to encourage harassment.
  • Impersonation: Creating fake social media profiles or email accounts to impersonate the victim and tarnish their reputation.
  • Exclusion: Deliberately leaving someone out of online groups, chats, or activities to isolate and alienate them.
  • Cyberstalking: Obsessively monitoring and tracking the victim’s online activities, often involving threats or intimidation.
  • Trolling: Posting provocative or offensive comments with the intention of inciting emotional responses from others.
  • Flaming: Posting hurtful or derogatory comments on a victim’s social media posts or public content.
  • Cyberbullying by proxy: Enlisting others to join in on the harassment or using them to amplify the attacks.
  • Hate speech: Using discriminatory, racist, or offensive language to target an individual or group based on their characteristics or beliefs.
  • Body shaming: Making negative comments about the victim’s appearance, weight, or physical attributes.
  • Excessive criticism: Constantly criticizing and belittling the victim’s opinions, actions, or accomplishments online.
  • Catfishing: Pretending to be someone else online to deceive the victim or manipulate them emotionally.
  • Online shaming: Publicly ridiculing or humiliating the victim for mistakes or actions, often involving the viral spread of embarrassing content.
  • Blackmail: Threatening to expose embarrassing or damaging information about the victim unless they comply with the bully’s demands.

Cyberbullying can cause negative mental health effects, which are outlined in further detail below.

What Are 3 Mental Effects of Cyberbullying?

The three primary mental effects of cyberbullying are: 

  • Anxiety and depression: One of the most prevalent mental effects of cyberbullying is the development of anxiety and depression. Victims often experience heightened stress levels, leading to persistent feelings of sadness and fear.
  • Low self-esteem: Cyberbullying can erode a person’s self-esteem, making them question their self-worth and value. Constant negative messages and attacks can lead to a diminished sense of self.
  • Isolation and loneliness: Victims of cyberbullying often withdraw from social interactions, fearing further humiliation or harassment. This isolation can intensify feelings of loneliness and alienation.

In extreme cases, cyberbullying can lead to tragic outcomes like self-harm or suicide. 

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What Is the Social Impact of Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying doesn’t just affect individuals; it has far-reaching social consequences as well: 

  • Deterioration of relationships: Cyberbullying can strain relationships among peers, friends, and family members, as they may not fully understand or know how to support the victim.
  • Negative school climate: Schools where cyberbullying is prevalent often have a negative atmosphere, impacting the overall learning environment and students’ emotional well-being.
  • Legal consequences: Perpetrators of cyberbullying may face legal repercussions, highlighting the severity of this issue in society.

The prevalence of cyberbullying is astonishing: Pew Research Center reports that 60% of teen girls and 59% of teen boys have experienced at least one form of cyberbullying. Understanding cyberbullying and knowing how to offer support to victims is crucial because it addresses a pervasive issue that can have severe and lasting consequences on individuals, particularly young people.

What Mental Illness Is Caused by Cyberbullying?

While cyberbullying itself may not directly cause a mental illness, it can significantly contribute to the development of the following conditions: 

  • Depression and anxiety disorders: Prolonged exposure to cyberbullying can trigger or worsen conditions like depression and various anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): In severe cases, individuals who have experienced extreme cyberbullying may develop symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional distress

How Many Kids Get Depression from Cyberbullying?

The prevalence of depression resulting from cyberbullying varies, but studies suggest that a significant number of young individuals are affected. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 17% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in the United States in 2020. 

A portion of these cases can likely be attributed to the mental toll of cyberbullying.

What Protective Factors Will Help to Reduce the Cases of Cyberbullying?

Preventing cyberbullying and its detrimental effects requires a multi-pronged approach involving individuals, schools, parents, and policymakers. Several protective factors can help reduce the incidence of cyberbullying:

  1. Education and awareness: Schools should implement comprehensive anti-bullying programs that educate students about the consequences of cyberbullying and promote empathy and respect.
  2. Strong parental involvement: Parents should maintain open communication with their children, monitor their online activities, and provide emotional support.
  3. Safe reporting mechanisms: Schools and online platforms must establish clear and confidential reporting mechanisms for victims and witnesses of cyberbullying.
  4. Mental health support: Accessible mental health services within schools and communities can provide necessary support to victims and perpetrators alike, addressing the underlying issues driving cyberbullying behaviors.
  5. Strict consequences: Enforcing consequences for cyberbullying, both within schools and legally, can serve as a deterrent for potential bullies.
  6. Cyber literacy: Education on responsible internet use and digital citizenship should be integrated into curricula to empower students to navigate the online world safely.
  7. Online civility campaigns: Social media platforms should actively promote online civility, encouraging users to report and discourage cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a pervasive issue with serious mental and social consequences. While it can lead to conditions such as depression and anxiety, there is hope in the form of protective factors and proactive measures. 

By educating, supporting, and fostering empathy, we can work together to combat cyberbullying and create a safer online environment for all.