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Study: Online Bullying and Other Negative Facebook Experiences Raise Risk of Depressive Symptoms

by John Gomez | Last Updated: September 20, 2016
Online Bullying

In the world of social media, Facebook is a behemoth.  It has dominated the social media world for several years.  Today, there are more than 1.7 billion active Facebook users.  This total is more than many other social media Web sites combined.  Simply put, Facebook influences the lives of people who use it regularly.  While this is a positive thing in many respects, it also leads to negative results for many Facebook users, particularly those who are young.  According to a recent study, negative experiences such as online bullying, unwanted contacts and others actually heighten the risk that someone will suffer from depressive symptoms in the future.  The details of the study appear below.

About the Facebook Study

An epidemiology research associate at Brown University led the study.  Those interested in reading the abstract of the research can find it here.  It appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health.  264 people participated in the study.  These people are now young adults.  The subjects had already been part of a separate, unrelated study in 2002, which meant that the authors had an established baseline for them because of the data collected in that previous work.  This allowed for a more accurate measure of how Facebook affected them as young adults.

The subjects were asked about any negative experiences they had endured on Facebook.  These included unwanted contacts, online bullying, misunderstandings or any other problems with other users.  The study revealed the following:

  • 82 percent of participants reported at least one negative Facebook experience since adding their profile.
  • 55 percent of participants had a negative experience during the year prior to completing the survey.
  • 24 percent of the subjects reported depressive symptoms that were described as moderate to severe.

Overall, the study concluded that people subjected to more intense negative Facebook experiences such as online bullying faced a risk of experiencing depressive symptoms by a factor of 3.2 times more than those subjects who had not.  In addition, subjects who had gone through ‘milder’ negative experiences such as unwanted contacts faced a risk of depressive symptoms that was 2.5 times greater than those who did not.

Online Bullying and Negative Experiences – Facebook Matters

The study concludes that there is a clear association between negative Facebook experiences and depressive symptoms.  The authors called for additional research into this matter.  When one considers that millions of Facebook users are under the age of 18, it quickly becomes clear that online bullying and other abusive conduct can lead to disastrous consequences for those who endure it.  It also means that parents of children who use social media Web sites – which is almost all of them – should make sure to communicate regularly with their children about their overall online experiences.

Online bullying was not a problem for those of us who grew up before the Internet.  This medium and many Web sites have changed the dynamic of bullying drastically.  These days, dozens if not hundreds of a child’s peers can watch bullying occur in real time.  You need to do something if you know of a child who has been harmed by online bullying.  Contact the children’s rights lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys for a free case evaluation.

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