Children and young adults who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self harm and attempt suicide than those who have not been bullied, a new study has found.
UK researchers looked at over 150,000 children and young people under the age of 25 who were living in 30 different countries, over a 21-year period.
They found that those who were cyberbullied were much more likely to attempt suicide and self-harm. However, the perpetrators of cyberbullying were also more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
The researchers said that the findings highlight the importance of developing effective strategies to deal with bullying.
"Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene, and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users," commented Prof Paul Montgomery of the University of Birmingham.
The researchers made a number of recommendations based on their findings, including:
-Healthcare professionals working to assess the mental health of children and young people should routinely ask about experiences of cyberbullying
-The impact of cyberbullying should be included in the training of mental health professionals who work with children and young people
-Children and young people involved in cyberbullying should be screened for self-harm and common mental health disorders
-In education, anti-bullying strategies should take a whole-school approach to include awareness training among staff and pupils.
Meanwhile, the study also noted that students who were victims of cyberbullying were less likely to report the problem and seek help compared to victims of more traditional types of bullying.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, PLOS One.