Today’s preteens who consider or attempt suicide are more likely to have experienced cyberbullying than being beaten up at school, according to a new medical study.
The study, published Monday in JAMA Network Open, is among the first to confirm that online harassment plays an independent role in the distress of children aged 10 to 13 who think about or try to take their own lives.
“This association was significant over and above other suicidality risk factors, including offline peer aggression experiences or perpetration,” the study reports.
However, the study found that social media interaction makes it easier for bullies to harass their victims without similar distress.
The study found that bullies who commit online harassment are less likely than offline bullies to experience suicidal tendencies. Most children targeted by online bullying did not report that the bullies also harassed them in person.
“Perpetrator anonymity may lead to lower levels of distress for the perpetrator and thus a lesser mental health burden than offline peer aggression, as perpetrators of cyberbullying are often unaware of the distress they cause the target and do not fear punishment for their behavior,” the study reports.
Among the young teens surveyed, 8.9% reported experiencing cyberbullying, 0.9% said they had perpetrated it, and 0.5% said they had both experienced and dished it out.
Cyberbullying played an independent role in the suicidal tendencies of victims even after the study screened out traumatic life events, family conflict, parental monitoring, school environment, and racial and ethnic discrimination.
Eight public health researchers analyzed a national survey of 10,414 early adolescents conducted between July 2018 and January 2021. They studied the data from Dec. 1 to Jan. 31.