How Cyber bullying Affects Kids Mental Health & Growth
Bullying in any form causes significant psychological and emotional distress to children, and cyberbullying is no exception. Children who are cyberbullied experience anxiety, depression, fear and low self-esteem, much like any other victim of bullying. However, there are some specific feelings that cyberbullied children are particularly prone to, namely:
- Cyberbullied children feel overwhelmingly vulnerable and powerless. This is because, unlike conventional bullying, cyberbullying can make its pernicious effects felt anywhere and anytime. A cyberbullied child doesn’t feel safe even at home, as long as there is a laptop or a cellphone around on which they can receive vitriolic and distressing messages. The fact that the cyberbullies are often anonymous only exacerbates this feeling of helplessness.
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- Victims of cyberbullying feel humiliated and exposed. No matter how young a child is, if they are familiar with social media, they understand the unfortunate reality of cyberspace — that once something has been put out there, it stays. Even if a humiliating message is taken down from one place, it can be shared among countless others. The knowledge that something humiliating about them is accessible to countless people can drive a cyberbullied child to despair.
- Cyber bullying might lead a child to being excluded and ostracized in their peer groups. This proves to be a vicious cycle, as being isolated only further reinforces a child’s status as an ‘acceptable’ target for cyberbullying among their peers. Moreover, in a bid to safeguard themselves from cyberbullying, kids shut down their computers and stay off their cell phones — which has the unfortunate side-effect of cutting them off from any friends they have who might be able to help them through this difficult time.
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- Victims of cyberbullying may develop a negative self-image, as a result of vicious posts and messages that demonize them for their real or perceived weaknesses. They start to doubt their value, and may be driven to drastic steps in a bid to correct their ‘faults’ — such as changing their appearance or crash dieting to rapidly lose weight.
- Cyberbullying might have a number of physical symptoms as well. Headaches and stomach aches are common in cyber bullied children. In some extreme cases, the stress of cyber bullying can even cause skin conditions and stomach ulcers! Moreover, being a victim of cyberbullying can disrupt a child’s sleep cycles and cause them to make sudden and dramatic changes to their eating patterns — both of which can be detrimental to his/her health.
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It is an unfortunate fact that, in some cases, cyber bullied children have even started to develop suicidal thoughts. Cyberbullying is therefore a risk, not only to the health and well-being of children, but also potentially to their very lives! This makes it all the more crucial for parents to be vigilant and take steps to ensure that the children are not being cyberbullied.