Anxiety in Teens

Bullying and Cyber-bullying

What is Bullying & Cyber-bullying?

Bullying is a common experience for most children and adolescents, and studies have shown that 1 in 4 Australian students experience bullying at some time during their schooling. Although more commonly seen physically (e.g. hitting, punching, spitting, breaking someone’s things), bullying can also take place:

  • Verbally: teasing, name calling, put downs, threatening
  • Emotionally: subtle bullying, ostracising someone; methods aimed at making an individual feel isolated
  • Socially: spreading rumours, playing mean pranks on someone
  • Online (cyber-bullying): bullying using technology e.g., by sending hurtful messages, pictures, or comments, or using online social networks to embarrass or humiliate someone

Bullying is defined as the repeated and intentional hurt or harm caused by an individual or a group of people with more power, towards another person or group of people who feel helpless to respond. It can be overt or covert and is often hidden from adults.

Bullying can be hard to spot in adolescents, but can have a lasting negative impact if left untreated. In the short-term, bullying can negatively impact participation and enjoyment of school and lessons. Individuals experiencing bullying can also begin to feel unsafe or experience difficulties focusing in school. Long-term impacts of bullying can include additional educational and occupational difficulties, and mental health difficulties including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and low self-esteem. In some instances, the experience of being bullied can lead a young person to become a bully.

Research investigating online and face-to-face bullying has indicated that although adolescents view bullying in person to be more negative, online bullying (cyber-bullying) has been shown to have a more significant negative impact later in life than face-to-face bullying. Cyber-bullying differs from face-to-face bullying in that it tends to be public (i.e., lots of people can see it regardless of what school or grade they are from), it can be anonymous, it spreads quickly, and can be invasive and hard to escape from.

Symptom Checklist

Often teenagers have a preference to “wish” bullying away rather than draw attention to it. Below are some signs of bullying that you may notice if your child is experiencing bullying in school:

  • School refusal
  • Expressing a hatred and/or fear of going to school
  • Becoming more withdrawn from peers
  • Showing signs of anxiety
  • Becoming more aggressive
  • Having frequent mood swings
  • Drop in grades
  • Difficulties sleeping at night
  • Changes in appetite
  • Low self-confidence
  • Preferring not to talk about school with family
  • Coming home with missing or damaged belongings
  • Being hesitant to go online
  • Seeming nervous when receiving an email or message
  • Hiding mobile phone or computer screen when someone enters the room
  • Spending increased amounts of time on social media and becoming visibly upset when using social media
  • Receiving suspicious packages, emails, or phone calls

Treatment for Bullying

Psychotherapy for those experiencing bullying involves helping the individual build their self-esteem so that they can start to assert themselves in these situations and not internalise what the bullies are saying to them or how they are being treated. One of the most effective forms of therapy to achieve this is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Utilising CBT for anxiety, the individual is taught to better understand their thoughts and feelings, and maladaptive coping mechanisms to the bullying, and replace them with positive and more adaptive ones. More specifically, CBT helps individuals who have experienced or are experiencing bullying to regain confidence and control of their lives.

Sources & Useful Links