Cyberbullying — the use of the Internet, phones or other technology to repeatedly harass or mistreat peers — is often linked with teen suicide.
But new research shows that teen suicide victims are bullied both online and in person and they often suffer from depression as well.
In the new study, researchers searched the Internet for reports of teen suicides where cyberbullying was a reported factor.
Information about demographics and the suicide were then collected through searches of online news media and social networks. Finally, descriptive statistics were used to assess the rate of pre-existing mental illness, the co-occurrence of other forms of bullying, and the characteristics of the electronic media associated with each suicide case.
The study identified 41 suicide cases — 24 female, 17 male, between the ages 13 to 18 — from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The study found that 24 percent of the teens were the victims of homophobic bullying, including the 12 percent identified as homosexual and another 12 percent who were identified as heterosexual or of unknown sexual preference.
Researchers also found that suicides most frequently occurred in September (15 percent) and January (12 percent) although they say these higher rates may have occurred by chance.
The incidence of reported suicide cases increased over time, with 56 percent occurring from 2003 to 2010, compared to 44 percent from January 2011 through April 2012, the research found.
According to the study, 78 percent of adolescents who committed suicide were bullied both at school and online, while only 17 percent were targeted online only.
A mood disorder was reported in 32 percent of the teens, and depression symptoms in an additional 15 percent.
“Cyberbullying is a factor in some suicides, but almost always there are other factors such as mental illness or face-to-face bullying,” said study author John C. LeBlanc, MD, MSc, FRCPC, FAAP. “Cyberbullying usually occurs in the context of regular bullying.”
Cyberbullying occurred through various media, with Formspring and Facebook specifically mentioned in 21 cases. Text or video messaging was noted in 14 cases.
The research, “Cyberbullying and Suicide: A Retrospective Analysis of 41 Cases,” was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
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