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What Are the Effects of Cyberbullying?

Discover how cyberbullying can impact victims

By

Updated June 12, 2014

School girls bullying at desk
Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

When it comes to the impact of cyberbullying, there isn’t much difference between it and the effects of traditional bullying. Both cause significant emotional and psychological distress. In fact, just like any other victim of bullying, cyberbullied kids experience anxiety, fear, depression and low self-esteem.

But targets of cyberbullying also suffer from some unique consequences and negative feelings. Here are some common feelings cyberbullied teens and tweens often experience.

Feel overwhelmed. Being targeted by cyberbullies can feel crushing especially if a lot of kids are participating in the bullying. Sometimes the stress of dealing with cyberbullying can cause kids to feel like the situation is more than they can handle.

Feel vulnerable and powerless. Victims of cyberbullying often find it difficult to feel safe. Typically, this is because the bullying can invade their home through a computer or cell phone at any time of day. No longer do they have a place where they can escape. To a victim, it feels like the bullying is everywhere. Additionally, because the bullies can remain anonymous, this can escalate feelings of fear. Kids who are targeted have no idea who is inflicting the pain.

Feel exposed and humiliated. Because cyberbullying occurs in cyberspace, the bullying often feels permanent. Kids know that once something is out there, it will always be out there. When cyberbullying occurs, the nasty messages or texts can be shared with multitudes of people. The sheer volume of people that know about the bullying can lead to intense feelings of humiliation.

Feel dissatisfied with who they are. Cyberbullying often attacks victims where they are most vulnerable. As a result, targets of cyberbullying often begin to doubt their worth and value and no longer feel worthy. They may respond to these feelings by harming themselves in some way. For instance, if a girl is called fat, she may begin a crash diet with the belief that if she alters how she looks then the bullying will stop.

Feel angry and vengeful. Sometimes victims of cyberbullying will get angry about what is happening to them. As a result, they will try to take revenge on the bully or bullies and engage in retaliation.

Feel disinterested in life. When cyberbullying is ongoing, the victims often begin to relate to the world around them differently than others. For many, life can feel hopeless and meaningless. They begin to lose interest in things they once enjoyed and spend less and less time interacting with family and friends. And in some cases depression can set in.

Feel alone and isolated. Cyberbullying often leads to teens being excluded and ostracized at school, which is particularly painful because friends are crucial at this age. When kids don’t have friends, this can lead to more bullying.

Additionally, when cyberbullying occurs, most people recommend shutting off the computer or turning off the cell phone. But, for teens this often means cutting off communication with their world. Their phones and their computers are one of the most important ways they communicate with others. If that option for communication is removed, they can feel secluded and cut off from their world.

Feel disinterested in school. Cyberbullying victims often have much higher rates of absenteeism at school than non-bullied kids. They often skip school to avoid facing the kids bullying them or because they are embarrassed and humiliated by the messages that were shared. Their grades suffer too because they find it difficult to concentrate or study because of the anxiety and stress that the bullying causes. And in some cases, kids will either drop out of school or lose interest in continuing their education after high school.

Feel anxious and depressed. Victims of cyberbullying often succumb to anxiety, depression and other stress-related conditions. This occurs primarily because cyberbullying erodes their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Feel ill. When kids are cyberbullied they often experience headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments. The stress of bullying also can cause stress-related conditions like stomach ulcers and skin conditions. Additionally, kids who are cyberbullied may experience changes in eating habits like skipping meals or binge eating. And their sleep patterns may be impacted. They may suffer from insomnia, sleep more than usual or experience nightmares.

Feel suicidal. Cyberbullying increases the risk of suicide. Kids that are constantly tormented by peers through text messages, instant messaging, social media and other outlets, often begin to feel hopeless. They may even begin to feel like the only way to escape the pain is through suicide. As a result, they may begin to fantasize about ending their life in order to escape their tormentors.

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