Bullying has always been a concern in schools, but the growth of technology allows for a new dimension of bullying called cyberbullying. On top of in person verbal or physical abuse, a child may continue to receive hurtful messages or be slandered online even after the school day ends.  This gives bullies the ability to harm their targets at times that used to be safe, but many states with bullying laws do not include actions performed off campus. 

It is also apparent that this is an issue we are seeing more in young girls.  Girls are more likely to both be cyberbullied and cyberbully someone else. And while many student suicide cases are not based solely on cyber bullying, we have been seeing an increase of (girls especially) suicide in which cyberbullying is involved.  In some of the worst cases, students are sexually assaulted only to have it posted on the internet where they are further humiliated and sometimes blamed for what happened.  Examples like this have come to light recently with cases such as the Stubenville, Ohio rape case.

What could this mean for physicians? In the future young patients may benefit from screening questions that target cyberbullying. In addition to asking if kids feel safe at home or school, perhaps physicians should ask if they feel safe using a phone or the internet (first asking about access), Or ask additionally about technomedia experiences if young patients seem despondent. And while children and teens are effected most frequently, adults can also experience cyberbullying, and it should be considered in patient assessment at every stage of the life cycle.

Want more info on Cyber Bullying? Visit the Cyberbullying research center website  

Cyber-bullying in the news: