Medical professionals understand how violence, stress and depression leave their ugly fingerprints on the health and wellness of their patients. But few appreciate how much cyberbullying and digital drama affects the physical health and wellness of their patients. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study several years ago comparing the harm caused by schoolyard bullying to that caused by cyberbullying. The study concluded that cyberbullying caused higher rates of depression than offline bullying.
Aside from the mental health harms caused by cyberbullying, self-harm often follows cyberbullying. Eating disorders for young teen girls mocked for their weight. Unhealthy exercise for boys mocked for their lack of sports talent. There are long lists of physical harms triggered by cyberbullying. And many targets engage in cutting on video cameras, to get the greatest attention and “support.”
Nurses, especially school nurses, are sometimes the first to see medical issues resulting from cyberbullying. If offline Power-Hungry cyberbullying is involved, cuts, bruises and sprains often send the target to the nurse’s office at school. Digital abuse, cyberbullying and sexual exploitation online have to be part of the inquiries, in the same way suspected parental or home abuse are.
Why should medical professionals learn more about cyberbullying?