Bullying and Support in a Digital World

Sadly, human cruelty is nothing new. Indeed, bullying is an age-old global problem, that is prevalent across generations. Bullying can take many forms, including hitting, intimidation, social exclusion, ridicule, and verbal assault. At its core bullying involves repeated acts of unwanted aggression against a victim who is perceived to be weaker in physical or social power1.

In the last couple of years, the impact of bullying among youth in particular has received increased attention, with recent research demonstrating devastating short- and long-term effects of childhood bullying on mental health, education and social relations1,2. Even more so, with digital technologies now being integrated into youth’s daily lives, many have raised concerns about the opportunities this presents for bullies to continue abuse online2.

Though there is no denying concerns are valid, I am interested in thinking about ways we could encourage young people to use the same digital technologies in a way that protects and promotes mental health despite adversity.

Digital technologies such as social media and video games provide youth with the ability to connect with others that is unparalleled2. Nowadays young people can connect with like-minded others from all over, providing them with the opportunity to surround themselves with a safety net of people to make them feel secure and supported. Thus, allowing the potential of available social support to grow rapidly, in particular for those who may not have access to it offline.

With research suggesting social support can diminish the stress experienced by victims of childhood bullyinge.g. 3, thereby buffering against its detrimental effects, we may need to consider teaching youth to utilize this available support and use digital technology to their advantage.

1. Merrell, K. W., Gueldner, B. A., Ross, S. W., & Isava, D. M. (2008). How effective are school bullying intervention programs? A meta-analysis of intervention research. School Psychology Quarterly, 23(1), 26-42.

2. Royal Society for Public Health. (2017). #StatusOfMind: Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.rsph.org.uk/our-work/policy/social-media-and-young-people-s-mental-health-and-wellbeing.html

3. Davidson, L. M., & Demaray, M. K. (2007). Social support as a moderator between victimization and internalizing-externalizing distress from bullying. School psychology review, 36(3), 383.


Anouk Poppelaars

PhD candidate interested in using social regulation of emotion and multidisciplinary game design to promote mental health in youth. Disheveled multi-tasker and provider of snacks.


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