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With the popularity of Snapchat, Facebook and other social media sites, many young people spend a lot of time online. During that time, young people can be exposed to unwanted aggressive behavior—or cyberbullying. Cruel comments or photos can be seen via e-mail, chats, social media posts or texts. Cyberbullying is a concern for young people, their parents and adults who care about them—and it is happening more frequently.

Bullying is not new. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2015, 15.5 percent of high school students reported being bullied. But experts see cyberbullying as different from in-person bullying.

LEANNE BOWLER, PHD

“Cyberbullying is particularly worrisome,” says Leanne Bowler, PhD, associate professor and chair of the Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Computing and Information. “Young people are leading the charge in the use of digital media and devices. Many parents haven’t experienced it and can’t draw on their own wisdom to help their children cope with it. Living a digital life is still somewhat foreign to parents. Young people don’t have the same resilience or life experience as adults to deal with cyberbullying. The effects of cyberbullying are magnified because so many people can see and send comments or photos at any time of the day. It’s nearly impossible to truly erase them from the internet or other people’s phones, etc.”

The health effects of cyberbullying are serious. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, young people who are bullied are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, increased health complaints and lower academic achievement and school attendance.

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