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Cyberbullying Accompanied by Other Factors Responsible for Teen Suicides: Study

Update Date: Oct 22, 2012 03:16 PM EDT
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(Photo : Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

Cyberbullying, the use of the Internet and related technologies to harass ad harm people repeatedly and deliberately has been repeatedly linked to suicide cases. Cyber bulling has also been found to be common among youngsters. However, a new study suggests that the reality is perhaps more complex than that. It suggests that every time cyber bullying is stated as the reason for a suicide, it may not be just that. There are many other factors involved and responsible for such occurrences, ranging from face to face bullying to depression 

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For the study "Cyberbullying and Suicide: A Retrospective Analysis of 41 Cases," researchers collected reports of youth suicides from Internet where cyberbullying was a reported factor, Medical Xpress reported.

The researchers then investigated further into the cases through online news reports and social networks. Later, they used a descriptive statistics to assess the rate of pre-existing mental illness in suicide victims and also looked into the co-occurrence of other forms of bullying.

The findings of the study revealed that out of the 41 suicide cases from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, 24 percent were the victims of homophobic bullying. This included 12 percent of teens who identified as homosexual and another 12 percent of teens who were identified as heterosexual or of unknown sexual preference.

The total suicide cases consisted of 24 females and 17 male victims, aged between 13 and 18.

Further revelations of the study suggested that while 78 percent of adolescents who committed suicide were bullied both at school and online, and only 17 percent were targeted online only.

Also, there were mood disorders apparently reported in 32 percent of the teens, and depression symptoms in an additional 15 percent.

"Cyberbullying is a factor in some suicides, but almost always there are other factors such as mental illness or face-to-face bullying," said study author John C. LeBlanc, MD, MSc, FRCPC, FAAP. "Cyberbullying usually occurs in the context of regular bullying."

In 21 cases, Formspring and Facebook were specifically mentioned as the media used for cyberbullying, while in 14 cases, it was text or video messaging.

"Certain social media, by virtue of allowing anonymity, may encourage cyberbullying," said Dr. LeBlanc. "It is difficult to prove a cause and effect relationship, but I believe there is little justification for anonymity."

The research was presented on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

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