Clinical psychologist Ana Pascual-Sánchez, one of the study’s authors at Imperial College London, said her team was surprised by those results.
“Perpetual assault exposes bullies to potential violent situations in which they may lose control and even feel vulnerable at some point or regret it, having intrusive memories,” said Pascual-Sánchez.
Almost 75% of adolescents completed the Revised Impact Scale for Children’s Events to detect PTSD symptoms. Thirty-five percent of cyberbully victims scored above the threshold for PTSD symptoms, while 29% of teens who cyberbulled showed signs of PTSD.
The researchers also found that cyber bullies were less likely to be traditional bullies, although they observed teens who fell into both categories.
“It appears that anonymity provided by online media could increase the risk of cyber bullying, providing an easily accessible platform that can reach others quickly and easily,” said Pascual-Sánchez.
Because this was an informative study, there are no official findings as to why some cyberbullies display PTSD symptoms. More research is needed to understand causation and delve into the symptoms, Pascual-Sánchez said.
Mental health challenges.
Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and professor of criminology at Florida Atlantic University, said he had not heard of cyber bulls experiencing PTSD symptoms in his research, but that it makes sense with other mental health struggles he has observed. regarding cyberbullying.
Hinduja said it focuses on childhood trauma, also known as adverse childhood events, that children can experience growing up. While some are resilient and can overcome their adversities, others develop problematic behavioral symptoms, according to Hinduja.
“We absolutely need professionals to continue studying some of these underlying psychological and physiological components, which can lead to these problems,” said Hinduja.
Through her research, Hinduja discovered that such problems can manifest in cyberbullying for various reasons, such as someone feeling jealous or insecure. Other common reasons someone engages in cyber bullying include peer pressure or a stressful family life.
While he noted in his own research that a large percentage of teens who use cyberbully also engage in bullying in person, he agreed with Pascual-Sánchez that some exclusively prefer cyberbully to remain anonymous.
“They are more likely to feel free of social norms, morals, ethics, rules, and possible punishments and penalties when behind the screen and physically distant or geographically separated from the target,” Hinduja said.
According to Hinduja, there are multiple warning signs that a teenager could be involved in cyberbullying. Some signs include that the teenager uses their device at all hours of the night or quickly changes or hides their screen when someone passes. They may also be showing increased sensitivity or appear more irritable.
Cyberbully victims may exhibit similar behavior, but they also have their own warning signs, Hinduja said. Teenagers may isolate themselves or stop using their device for a time. Some common emotional symptoms include anger or frustration.
“Those adults want to help,” said Hinduja. “They don’t want you to keep fighting and suffering. And generally, there is some kind of solution if you just let them know what’s going on.”
When it comes to treating teens who are involved in cyber bullying or who are victims of cyber bullying, Hinduja said mental health assessments should be standard. He believed it should be a community effort with schools and doctors working together to address the effects of cyber bullying, but also to help prevent it.
“All (these efforts) will help illuminate PTSD and someone’s childhood trauma and adverse event that we can then deal with, which will hopefully lead to less troublesome, emotional and psychological consequences in the future.” Hinduja said.