Research Paper on Bullying and Cyberbullying

Bullying and Cyberbullyng

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Psychological Effects of Bullying and Cyberbullying

Many children and adolescents face aggressive behavior, either face-to-face or on the Internet. Bullying and cyberbullying may take a variety of forms, but their main aim is to humiliate a person, attack him physically or verbally, and make him feel weak and unprotected (Saracho 180). Research shows that this behavior has adverse, long-term consequences for victims’ physical and emotional well-being, leading to mental health problems, substance abuse, and aggression (Nixon 143). This brief research paper aims at discussing the current literature that explores effects of bullying and cyberbullying on children’s lives.

Bullying is traditionally defined as “behavior that is aggressive and negative, carried out repeatedly, and occurs in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power between the subjects involved” (Saracho 180). Bullying typically occurs when a stronger and more popular child or adolescent uses his power to abuse and humiliate a weaker, marginalized individual. It may include teasing, name-calling, taunting, threatening, spreading rumors, embarrassing in public, kicking and pushing, making mean gestures, etc. (stopbullying.gov). In the majority of cases, bullying occurs in school, as well as in school buses, playgrounds, and any other places where children gather to study or communicate. Therefore, children faced with bullying have no chances to avoid it because they have to visit the same places their perpetrators do. The majority of them suffer in silence because they are reluctant to tell their parents or teachers about their problems (Wolke and Lereya 885).

Cyberbullying is the most recent form of bullying, which targets already victimized children. It can be defined as “an overt, intentional act of aggression towards another person online” (Mieczynski 19). Researchers note that it is important to distinguish between cyberbullying and Internet harassment, as the latter refers to single, anonymous cases of aggression. Similar to bullying, cyberbullying is based on the imbalance of power and control when more vulnerable and weak individuals suffer verbal abuse they cannot prevent (Chadwick 3). Unlike traditional, face-to-face bullying, this type of behavior can happen irrespectively of time and place and reach a child when he or she is supposed to be safe at home. Besides, cyberbullying can be more detrimental because mean messages and photos can be easily shared online while the perpetrator may remain anonymous (stopbullying.gov).

Constant humiliation and fear that cannot be avoided or prevented inevitably affect a victim’s health and well-being. To begin with, an abundant body of literature shows that bullying increases symptoms of depression and anxiety (Lereya et al. 524; Porsteinsdóttir 3). Children who were bullied systematically at school were found to have lower self-esteem and more depressive symptoms in adulthood compared to their peers (Yen 6). Interestingly, research indicates that parental support decreases depressive symptoms, which highlights the crucial role of the family in protecting children from peer aggression (Porsteinsdóttir 3). It has also been found that both bullies and bullied are at increased risk of young adult depression, as well as other mental health problems including panic disorders and suicidal thoughts (Copeland et al. 420).

Some studies suggest that bullying may even result in self-harm and suicide. Young individuals who report being bullied tend to suffer suicide-related behavior compared to children and adolescents not affected by aggressive behavior (stopbullying.gov). However, there is still not enough evidence to claim that bullying causes suicide-related behavior. Rather, victimization, along with other risk factors, increases the chance that a young person will try to hurt or kill oneself (CDC 3). Bullying has social effects as well, as it contributes to poorer relationships with peers and difficulties in making friends, thus making victims feel lonely and unwanted (Seixas, Coelho and Nicolas-Fischer 68). Victims tend to have no friends and are not accepted by their peers, which in turn makes it difficult for them to adjust to school and perform well academically.

Effects of cyberbullying on victims’ mental and physical health have also attracted researchers’ attention. Evidence indicates that people subject to systematic online aggression report increased depressive symptoms, anxiety, loneliness, suicidal thoughts, and somatic symptoms (Nixon 143). Both cyber-victims and cyber-bullies were found to have more social, emotional, and psychosomatic problems, and they did not feel safe at school (Bottino et al 463). Moreover, research shows that perpetrators of cyberbullying have increased aggression, substance use, and delinquent behaviors (Nixon 143). This data vividly demonstrates that all people involved in bullying, no matter what side they are on, suffer from its adverse effects.

There is no unanimity as to whether bullying is more detrimental to victims’ health compared to cyberbullying. A recent survey conducted among students showed that cyberbullying is not associated with mental health problems (Hase and Goldberg 607). In most of the cases, children are subject to both types of aggressive behavior, so it is important to control for the effects of traditional bullying when exploring cyberbullying (Hase and Goldberg 607). Another study, however, revealed that both bullying and cyberbullying are equally related to feeling unsafe and isolated (Gudmundsson 2). Therefore, more research is needed to determine the differences between bullying and cyberbullying and explore their effects on children’s health.

Given the evidence presented above, one may conclude that bullying and cyberbullying have adverse effects on mental and physical health and socialization, although differences between these two types of aggression are still not well-researched. Children who are being victimized tend to experience depression, anxiety, aggression, lower self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. Interestingly, bullies themselves suffer from the long-term consequences of aggression, which increases their risks for having depression, panic disorders, delinquent behaviors, and suicidal intentions. Therefore, given adverse effects of bullying and cyberbullying on children’s lives, more research is required to inform the development of effective prevention and support programs.