Stress :

Cyber Bullying Causes Stress and Illness

Lori Higgins

Cyber bullying is taking an emotional tool on the adolescents who experience it, and some resort to becoming bullies themselves, according to research out of Wayne State University.

A study released earlier this year found that of 367 students surveyed, 63 said they had been the victim of cyber bullying. About half of those victims said they in turn bullied someone else.

"Cyber bullying is increasingly becoming a problem with adolescents," said Jemica Carter, who conducted the research along with Feleta Wilson, in Wayne State's College of Nursing.

It's also expanding the impact of bullying.

"It used to be you went home and it was a safe haven," said Marlene Seltzer, medical director of No Bullying Live Empowered (NoBLE), an anti-bullying program at Beaumont Children's Hospital launched last month. "But with technology it's 24/7. There is no safe place for the bullying to stop."

The goal of the Wayne State study was to examine the physical and psychosocial impact of cyber bullying on adolescents. Carter said students who said they were cyber bullied were more likely to experience sadness, fearfulness and sickness.

More than 60% of the students in the study, who ranged in age from 10 to 18, reported they knew someone who had been cyber bullied.

Other findings:

-- Students spend an average of 2.78 hours a day using technology. The highest amount was eight hours.

-- They average sending 189 text messages a day. The highest amount was 3,000.

-- They average having 2.12 e-mail accounts, but some students had as many as 25 e-mail accounts.

The research was part of Carter's doctoral dissertation at Wayne State. She is on the faculty at the Veterans Affairs Nursing Academy.

Carter said the finding about e-mail accounts was among the more surprising. She said parents often are unaware their kids have multiple e-mail accounts.

"Students are using these additional, fictitious e-mail accounts to bully others. And there's no monitoring of these additional e-mail accounts, because parents aren't aware."

The kind of emotional impact the Wayne State study found in victims of cyber bullies holds up for bullying victims in general. Research finds they're more likely to experience depression, anxiety, loneliness and self-esteem issues, more likely to report health problems and more likely to see their grades suffer.

They aren't the only ones who suffer from bullying, Seltzer said. Just witnessing bullying can bring about the same effects, researchers have found.

"The witnesses often will want to intervene, but are afraid to," said Seltzer, whose program will address the needs of victims, witnesses and bullies. "If you know you should do something, and you don't, it can leave you with an uncomfortable feeling."

Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651 or lhiggins@freepress.com

(c)2012 the Detroit Free Press

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