Cyberbullying may be worse than traditional bullying

Rory Macleod

Cyberbullying leads to more suicidal thoughts in children than traditional bullying. Some estimates suggest that between 5% and 20% of all children are victims of some type of bullying, verbal or physical. Bullying is a strong indicator for teen suicide. Evidence now suggests that the relationship between cyberbullying and suicide is stronger than traditional bullying and suicide.

Very specific criteria for study

Researchers from the Netherlands have tested the evidence by reviewing all medical literature o the subject. This meta-analysis reviewed 34 studies focusing on the relationship between bullying and thoughts of suicide and 9 studies examining the relationship between bullying and suicide attempts. There refined their research by limiting it to peer victimization in order to capture bullying data. The analysis ultimately included data on over 284,000 children and teens.

No age or gender differences

They found a relationship between cyberbullying and suicidal thoughts in over 70,000 participants. They found no difference in older and younger teens and no difference between boys and girls. The lack of a gender difference contradicted previous studies which showed that girls more immediately went to suicidal thoughts after bullying while boys suffered longer then went to suicidal ideation.

New information on effects of cyberbullying

Previous studies also showed no difference in cyber- and traditional bullying. This study found a stronger association with cyberbullying. “Potentially, the effects of cyberbullying are more severe because wider audiences can be reached through the internet and material can be stored online, resulting in victims reliving denigrating experiences more often,” wrote the authors in JAMA Pediatrics.

Final analysis: all bullying is harmful and can lead to suicidal thoughts

“This meta-analysis establishes that peer victimization is a risk factor of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Efforts should continue to identify and help victims of bullying, as well as to create bullying prevention and intervention programs that work.”

Source: David McNamee/MedicalNewsToday, JAMA Pediatrics
Photo by Rory MacLeod at


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