Depression in cyber-bullying vs. in-person bullying

Cyber-bullying has drawn a lot of recent attention from commentators, schools, and parents. A new research study in the Journal of Adolescent Health argues that in contrast to in-person bullying where both the bully and bullied are more likely to be depressed, in cyber-bullying, it is the victim who is more likely to be depressed. The research examined “7,500 students from 43 countries.”

The researchers argue this finding may be due to the unique traits of cyber-bullying:

A big reason for the depression could be that word spreads faster and more easily online: Blog posts, comments and e-mails can be written anonymously and readily copied and pasted, said researcher Ronald Iannotti, a staff scientist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Once made, such posts may survive indefinitely.

“Cyber-bullying goes on, it persists,” Iannotti told MyHealthNewsDaily. “So not only does it happen the first time you’ve seen it, but you know it’s still out there circulating.”

Unlike traditional face-to-face bullying, where there is a limited number of witnesses, cyber-bullying can have an audience of hundreds or thousands of online bystanders. The anonymity of the poster can add to the victim’s stress because there’s no easy way to get the person to stop, Iannotti said.

While this may explain why those who are bullied suffer more from depression, it doesn’t explain why the bullies feel less depressed when their bullying takes place online. Perhaps because they are able to remain anonymous and can’t feel any backlash or public pressure if no one knows who they are?