The journal JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) Pediatrics recently published a study indicating that over 20% of teenagers report having been the target of cyberbullying. 15% of teenagers admitted to bullying someone online.
More information provided by the National Institute of Mental Health reveals that over 9% of teens in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2011. A third study showed that about 1 in 3 teenagers met the criteria for being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, such as panic disorders and phobias.
This new information points to a link between cyberbullying and depression among iduals agteenagers. Accounts of these situations are not hard to find—there are many cases of teenagers running away or taking their lives due to the actions of others on social media. About 5% to 8% of teenagers in the United States attempt suicide each year, and nearly twice that amount at least seriously consider suicide. Sadly, suicide is the third leading cause of death of individuals aged 15 to 24 years. Cyberbullying victims are more likely to attempt suicide than teenagers who have not been cyberbullied.
In addition to cyberbullying, social media usage can lead to unhealthy comparisons, body image issues, and intentional exclusion
With teenagers using social media and the internet in general for many different activities, parents need to be aware of how the way that teens spend their time online is helping or hindering their mental health. From sharing posts and links to commenting on videos and photos, Facebook, Kik Messenger, Vine, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Instagram are all popular social media platforms.
Rather than cutting children off from social media completely, parents of teens might find benefit in monitoring their teen’s social media activity to make sure that they are finding meaningful sources of connection and support from others—after all, over half of teenagers report that using social media is a positive experience. Talking to teens about cyberbullying and making sure that they are not a victim nor victimizing someone else is also important.
Finding the perfect balance between allowing privacy and connection for teenagers through social media use and also monitoring their experiences for negatively and bullying may be challenging, but it could save a life.