Cyberbullying Linked to Depression, New Study Finds

Depression is a bigger problem for the Latino community than many might think, and according to a new study, the Internet is making things worse for teens.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Latinos are a high-risk group for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. NAMI reports that women and Latinos are more likely to experience a major depressive episode, while the Common Wealth Fund Survey also found that Latino girls exhibited more depressive symptoms than African American or white girls.

While there are many problems that can trigger depression, a new review published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that cyberbullying on social media is strongly linked to depression amongst teenagers. Michele Hamm, a researcher in pediatrics at the University of Alberta, and her team reviewed studies on cyberbullying and social media. Although each study looked at different health outcomes, and sometimes defined cyberbullying differently, there was one finding that stood out.

“There were consistent associations between exposure to cyberbullying and increased likelihood of depression,” Hamm told Live Science.

Of the 36 studies reviewed, 10 examined the link between social media victimization and depression. Each found a connection.

However, these studies didn’t prove that the bullying actually causes the depression, as it’s possible that depressed teens are just easier targets for bullies, but one study in particular found that cyberbullying preceded teens’ depression, suggesting a causal relationship. Most troubling of all, the researchers found that the more cyber bullies harassed a teen, the more severe his or her symptoms of depression.

Combating cyberbullying isn’t easy, either. More often than not, people don’t speak up. Over 80% of depressed individuals don’t seek out professional help. At the same time, 95% of teenage, social media users who’ve witnessed cruel behavior online say they’ve seen others ignoring the problem — more than half (55%) of whom say they see this frequently. Worse, 66% of teens who’ve witnessed cyber bullying say they’ve seen others join in, and 21% say they even contributed to the problem. In other words, both victims, and bystanders don’t take any form of action when the problem arises.

“Kids really are hesitant to tell anyone when cyberbullying occurs,” said Hamm. “There seems to be a common fear that if they tell their parents, for example, they’ll lose their Internet access.”

For this reason, it’s crucial that parents respond carefully if their teens are being cyberbullied.

“Parents need to address that this is happening and that the Internet and social media is here,” said Hamm. “It’s an important part of their kids’ lives. But it needs to be a whole team approach.”

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