Did you know that 95% of the teens in the U.S. are active users of online platforms? Every day more and more teenagers are stepping into the world of digital technology to enjoy easier, faster, and more efficient lives or simple entertainment. But unfortunately, the luxuries of digital communication have blinded the masses; therefore, many youngsters and their parents are blissfully unaware of the negative things they might experience.
Cyberbullying rules the dark side of the web. It refers to the repeated use of digital technology to target another person, usually with the intention of harassment. Cyberbullies humiliate their prey via various online resources, including email, social media platforms, forums, text messaging, apps, and gaming.
Research shows that cyberbullies often target the most vulnerable people. The need to stay connected with people and access social media platforms 24/7 often makes teens a perpetual target of cyberbullying. And since the youth is still learning how to regulate their emotional response to social interactions, they suffer the serious, devastating effects of cyberbullying.
Emotional Impact Of Cyberbullying On Youngsters
1. Feelings of Humiliation
Cyberbullying occurs in cyberspace, so it feels permanent as nothing can ever be truly deleted from the internet. Once something is out on the internet, it will always be there. Therefore, teenagers continue to be exposed to humiliation with nasty posts, messages, pictures, or videos. Unplugging the internet or switching off devices is not the solution to cyberbullying. Instead, parents need to have candid conversations with their kids about online privacy and safety to prevent cyber bullying and help them understand how to counter the bullies.
2. Feelings of Isolation
Most parents recommend their teenagers stay away from the internet to safeguard them from being exposed to cyberbullying. However, this only makes them more vulnerable. After being exposed to cyberbullying, they are forced to shut down communication with other people, leading to intense feelings of seclusion and loneliness. The detrimental effects of cyberbullying intensify when teens cut off their connection to the world and isolate themselves in their rooms.
3. Feelings of Anger
Victims of cyberbullying express extreme anger towards their bullies and their situation. Anger is a strong emotional response that often paves the way to aggressive behavior. Often, teenage victims plot revenge and engage in retaliation toward their cyber bullies in an attempt to inflict a seemingly equal amount of pain on them. They might hurt themselves even more by getting into serious trouble with fellow peers or civil authorities.
4. Feelings of Powerlessness
Cyberbullying makes teenagers feel vulnerable and powerless as they realize they have no control over what goes on the internet. Youngsters often put too much private information out there without understanding that they are allowing cyberbullies a chance to invade their personal and professional space. The situation worsens further as cyberbullies often remain anonymous. Not knowing who inflicted the pain and still feeling the strong urge to identify the culprit makes people feel powerless.
Mental Impact Of Cyberbullying On Youngsters
According to a survey conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Health, youth who are the target of cyberbullying at school are at greater risk of encountering depression, anxiety, and other stress-related conditions. Feelings of worry and isolation replace their feelings of contentment, which only intensify with the added stress of coping with cyberbullying events daily. When these feelings are left unaddressed for a more extended period, victims of cyberbullying fall deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit of depression.
2. Low Self-Esteem
Young people have an intense psychological need to be accepted by other people. They might constantly post their best versions on social media, seeking validation and appreciation. However, cyberbullying events leave teenagers vulnerable and insecure about their looks, personality, skills, abilities, etc. The youth can start to feel uncertain about any aspect that tends to be the topic of bullying. All of this seriously declines a victim’s sense of self-esteem as they begin to feel intensely dissatisfied. Associating negativity with their worth and value makes teenagers feel bad about themselves.
3. Academic Issues
Cyberbullying victims tend to lose interest in school drastically. These teenagers showcase extremely high absenteeism rates. They purposely skip school (and other public places) to avoid facing their bullies or people who read or saw their embarrassment and humiliation shared online. Continued absenteeism eventually leads to low assignment submissions, missed exams, etc., directly impacting overall grades. In some cases, teens prefer to drop out of school instead of fighting their bullies and defending their rights.
4. Increased Risk of Suicidal Thoughts
Cyberbullying also pushes teenagers on the dark path of self-harm and suicide. Many teens cut or burn themselves, which eventually increases the risk of suicidal behavior. When people feel hopeless about their cyberbullying situation, they believe that the only way to find relief is to end their lives. The victimized youth fantasizes about dying to escape the pain of being bullied every day online and in person.
5. Disturbed Sleep
Cyberbullying can also affect a teenager’s sleeping pattern adversely. They often end up overthinking and staying up at night feeling insecure or self-conscious. As a result, many victims suffer from sleeping issues (like insomnia, sleep paralysis, narcolepsy, etc.). These disrupted sleeping patterns can severely impact a youngster’s health in the long term.
If your loved one is a victim of cyberbullying, take corrective action before the devastating effects mentioned above take a severe toll on their health and well-being. Talk to your teenager and educate them about dealing with cyberbullies. If the situation worsens, reach out to authorities to report cases of cyberbullying and get official help in the matter.
Loved ones need to assure the victim that cyberbullying is cruel and immature behavior of other people for which they should never blame themselves. Remember to identify the signs and address cyberbullying activities taking place around you. The sooner you act against these bullies, the more chances you have to protect youngsters from the detrimental impacts of cyberbullying.