According to investigators, it would appear that cyberbullying is a phenomenon that it taken on new dimensions lately, and which causes severe negative consequences in its victims.
Before the advent of the Internet, and before kids had nearly unrestricted access to mobile phones and smartphones, bullying was usually only done in the school.
This means that the bullies and their victims passed through an experience that was only witnessed by a handful of people. Naturally, other kids in school found out, but the extent of the damage was limited.
Additionally, studies revealed that even those who engaged in bullying, and were bullied in return, experienced symptoms such as depression more often than those who were only bullied.
But the electronic age has changed all that. Now, a person can be humiliated around the clock, and have his or her painful experience be witnessed by hundreds to thousands of virtual onlookers.
To make matters even worse, the Internet provides the perfect place for this, given that those who bully others can easily hide their identities from the victims.
Those who suffer from such abuse have in a new study been proven to be extremely depressed due to their ordeal. The work was commissioned by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
For the research, the team that carried out the investigation analyzed the behavior and mental health status of more than 7,500 students, spread out over 43 countries.
This ensured maximum accuracy for the study, which only looked at kids in the 6th through 10th grade. According to the team, the questions only covered a 30-day period.
“Cyber-bullying goes on, it persists. So not only does it happen the first time you've seen it, but you know it's still out there circulating,” says National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD) expert and study team member Ronald Iannotti.
The expert adds that blog posts, message boards and other forms of cyberbullying can endure online forever, stored in various archives until they are brought back into the public eye.
This is also one of the main reasons why bullying victims are so depressed when this happens online. They realize that what has been said about them will have far-reaching implications.
“You don’t know who the audience is, and you don't know who the bully is,” Iannotti goes on to say, quoted by LiveScience.
Details of the new work appear in the September 21 issue of the esteemed Journal of Adolescent Health. The investigation was prompted by instances in which those bullied excessively resorted to extreme behaviors to escape.