Recent study links cyberbullying to suicidal behavior, revealing

Recent study links cyberbullying to suicidal behavior, revealing growing problem with teens and social media

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

More than half of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying, according to a recent CDC research report. 

In addition, victims are reported to be between two to nine times more likely to commit suicide than non-victims. 

Elizabeth Rogers, a counselor at Evans Middle School, said digital abuse commonly starts in middle school, where she said students develop their personality.  

"Cyberbullying can really increase low self-esteem, it can start early on-set depression that can last your entire lifetime, and with your low self-esteem and low self image, that's going to affect how you feel about yourself in high school and how you feel about yourself in college. Your cognitive reasoning is going to be all of these things you heard if you keep ruminating on it, and so of course, it's going to have a long-term effect," Rogers said.

Rogers said the power of social media cannot be understated. 

"It starts as a small conflict and then it might bleed into students texting each other after school and then getting on social media, and the thing with social media is you really can't control the audience. Once it's out, it's out. You can't take back what you said. I know things can get deleted and stuff. but there is a record of these things," Rogers said.

Texas Tech professor Rauf Arif said cyberbullying victims are at a larger risk of long-term mental health effects than teens who are bullied face to face. 

"In face to face bullying, it used to be a smaller community, a smaller audience, but for cyberbullying, the audience could be the entire planet. Whoever is connected to the Internet can actually be a part of witnessing that bullying act," Arif said.

Arif said parents, teachers, and doctors need to be trained on digital literacy, so they can connect with and help a child in need. 

"They just know that something is not good or something is not right, but they don't know where to go, where to seek help. If you get sick, you go to a doctor, but if you get bullied, where do you go? People don't usually open up their communication to their parents, particularly at this younger age. And parents share this responsibility to have that open communication line with them," Arif said. 

Arif said he hopes to see apps designed to help prevent and intervene against cyberbullying.

"If social media is a medium where cyberbullying is becoming cyber, or becoming online, then social media is the solution at the same time," Arif said. 

Arif and Rogers add David's Law, an act signed by Governor Abbott in 2017 that holds aggressors and negligible parents responsible for this abuse as a misdemeanor crime, is a good step forward.

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