Association between Teenager’s Mental Health and Cyberbullying on Social Media

The purpose of this study is to explore some of the different variables on how a teenager’s mental health can be affected by cyberbullying on social media. This study will seek to answer the research question, what association does a teenager’s mental health have in connection with cyberbullying? The goal is to analyze literature with a variety of demographics of teenagers experience with cyberbullying on social media and determine how it affects their mental health.

A child’s developmental stage as they transition into adulthood through their teen years is crucial.

“Adolescence is a significant period of psychological, biological and social change as they adjust to their emergent needs and develop new skills” (O’Reilly, 2018). The term bullying was first introduced in 2011 and defined as “aggressive verbal or physical behavior used to cause harm or distress”. With the introduction of social media and technological advances in the digital world, going online has never been easier with smartphones, tablets and laptops one can access social media with the tap of a button.

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Bullying has spread into the online world, this phenomenon is what has come to be known as “Cyberbullying” it displays the same aggressive behaviors as traditional face-to-face bullying, actions such as; harassing, threatening, intimidating or humiliating through online social networking sites using electronic devices. As a teenager’s young mind continues development it does not fully possess the proper knowledge, problem solving, and decision-making skills to react to the aggressive behaviors in cyberbullying thus leaving them vulnerable to the effects.

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Cyberbullying affects a teenager’s mental health in many ways, in some cases the illness can last a lifetime, and in extreme situations cause loss of life.

As many as 90% of young adults living in the United States use some form of social media, most of these users visit at least once a day. Teens go online to update their perceived personalities established through social media; they also go online to snoop around someone else’s profile looking for gossip. Social media platforms have become countless; some of the most well know sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, have millions of users. Facebook, the most popular of them all currently has over 2.37 billion users worldwide and growing daily. Popular larger scale groups require an account with verifying identity while others like Yik Yak and Whisper allow you to remain anonymous. Remaining anonymous can encourage negative behavior.

Social media in modern countries like the United States is often viewed as a leisurely fun activity. In developing countries around the world, social media provides an opportunity to improve student learning through informal process. They look for knowledge on medical diagnosis, connections with people of similar interests, political connections. Even though teenagers in developing countries mostly look to social media for knowledge, teens are still vulnerable to personal attacks, cyberbullying is a global trend no matter where you reside. Countries with high censorship regulations tend to under report cyberbullying awareness resulting in fewer resources and knowledge for the disenfranchised and underprivileged.

Those with no technology or access to social media do not have access to the resources to see if they are being cyberbullied, they also do not have the tools to gain the knowledge necessary to deal with such action. The traditional schoolyard mean kid who bullied others during recess are far and few nowadays. Things have shifted, your age, size; gender does not matter when it comes to cyberbullying. Teens can create an anonymous account and establish any persona they want; they can bully others online from the comfort of their own home through a small handheld device.

Most teenagers eventually move on from high school and transfer into a college setting. Most universities require students to use online communication technology to enhance engagement and connection with others while promoting self-directed and interactive learning. Most assignments and interactions happen online with fewer restrictions and monitoring compared to middle school and high school. The convenience of using virtual online classrooms is used commonly in education. It is evident that university students spend a significant amount of time online and typically use social media and message each other several times per day, this allows social engagement in positive relationships but this also creates a path for individuals to engage in cyber-aggressive behavior. According to Mishna (2018) Cyber-aggression includes hostile behaviors such as name calling, threatening, stalking, sexual harassment and revealing personal information through electronic means”. A study conducted by Mishna (2018) examined the nature, extend and consequences of cyber-aggression.

Most students experienced a private video or photo shared without their permission along with vulgar, angry, intimidating or threatening messages. The interesting thing about the study is that in half of the instance reported the perpetrator was a friend, who would have thought your own friend could be your aggressor. These statistics are compelling especially when comparing these results to other studies that examine extreme cases in cyberbullying that can lead to suicide. There is a strong association between cyberbullying victimization and depression. Students in a university campus reported mental symptoms that included loss of interest, feeling guilty, low self-worth, lack of sleep, low energy, and poor concentration. The data revealed that information communication technology is needed for resources and support, cyber aggression is experienced by a minority of university students, impacting their sense of well-being and mental health.

A study conducted by Messias (2011) used publicly available diverse sample of US high school students to study the connections between bullying cyberbullying and forms of victimization in connection with depression and suicide. My minor is psychology, which relates to the study of the human mind and its functions, the mental disorder of depression is the feeling of persistent sadness and loss of interest, which relates to symptoms we are going to discuss in this study. Suicide is a preventable grievous tragedy that is among the top causes of death among teens. Teens embrace online social networking; unfortunately, this also causes persuasive exposure leading to harassment. Overall, a minority of students reported some form of bullying and labeled at high risk for suicidal ideation, plans, attempts, and attempts requiring treatment. This study suggest that cyberbullying decreases with age but the previous study we discussed conducted by Mishna’s shows us that cyberbullying is still happening at a similar rate in the later teen years in college.

Research has also been conducted on the association between social media use and depression among U.S. young adults. Lin (2016) also found familiar results just like Messias (2011) in the previous study by connecting depression and social media use. Most of the time depression begins in young adulthood, even though multiple factors contribute to depression, there is a growing interest of the influence social media has on a person’s psychological well-being. The study aimed to examine a broader range of social media exposures and determine the association between depression and social media. The results suggested that individuals with the most social media visits per week had a significant increase of odds of experiencing depression. These results are consistent with other researchers, the longer someone spends on social media sites, the stronger the possibilities of exposure to negative experiences.

Most studies look at how cyberbullying affect a teenager when interacting among their peers with no adult interruption. How can a parent impact cyberbullying on social media if they were more involved? Mesch (2018) found that when a parent and child connect on social networking sites it could directly affect cyberbullying victimization. In recent years, adults have become more involved in social media just like the younger generations. An increasing percentage of adolescents have reported that at least one parent has sent them a friend request on social media sites.

This new form of connection between parents and their teens has prompted researchers to investigate the motivation for the online relationship. In addition, how it influences a child’s perception of their parents invading their privacy. Some teens may feel like their privacy is being invaded or monitored, while others have no problem adding a parent knowing there is layer of protection in the background of their social media accounts. The study found that only 14% reported that they had experienced cyberbullying in the last 12 months when a parent was friended.

Parent involvement on social media offers some protection against negative experiences online. Teens scour each other’s online profile, seeing a parent listed as their “friend” can deter aggression since the adult monitoring may be noticed. The cyberbully will think about consequences before acting since the presence of adult monitoring is known. This study also agrees with a previous study, the older the adolescent, the fewer number of negative experiences on social media sites. “The effect of age is also consistent for cyberbullying, indicating that the likelihood of being bullied online declines for older adolescents” Mesch (2018).

Next, we are going to discuss an article that investigates how social media is viewed in regards to mental health wellbeing by adolescents themselves. What is a teenager’s perspective on the mental impact social media can have on someone? Students were asked to talk about their understanding of mental health, their knowledge of concepts, and drawing on their personal experiences. The results were surprising “participants expressed generally consistent negative views about the potential impact of social media on mental health” (O’Reilly, et al. 2018). Teens know the potential negative effects social media can bring, the temptation to socialize online is too strong to ignore.

One researcher wrote about the correlation between cyberbullying and mental health in minorities. Can the fact that students receive some form of financial help affect cyberbullying? The study aimed at finding out how frequent cyberbullies were being aggressors and the symptoms experienced on the receiving end in minorities. The majority of students reported, “Telling lies or made fun of other teens using the internet”, other students reported to have been victims of lies and intimidation tactics online. Results proved that suicidal ideation, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, were prevalent among cyberbullying victims. Minorities in race, ethnicity, and gender did not correlate with cyberbullying involvement or negative mental health symptoms.

Some people argue that social media encourages moral disengagement since teens are attached to their phones just waiting for the next friend request. (Cao, Khan, Zaigham, & Khan 2018) establish a connection with moral disengagement and social media attachment, leading to cyberbullying in some instances. Moral disengagement is a process by which people may defend their excuses for bad conduct by justifying their actions, and believing their decision is coming from certain situations allowing them to act aggressively. A teenager can establish a fake social media account, cyberbully another person and not feel guilty about it because of the moral disengagement “it’s ok everybody is doing it, if I don’t criticize her someone else will”. The study showed that social media attachment acts a stimulus and induces a user’s feelings of depression, anxiety, and provides a platform for bullying. Moral disengagement plays a vital role between social media attachment and cyberbullying victimization.

So far, this literature review has been about the correlation between mental health in teens and cyberbullying on social media. Although most scholars agree that social media prevention and intervention is necessary, there is no agreement on how to enact it. This review is about an article written in an effort to prevent cyberbullying and intervention efforts. Cyberbullying has gained nationwide media attention across the United States and Canada because of suicides involving youth. Society needs to know how to intervene in cyberbullying is observed or prevent it all together if possible.

Prevention and intervention methods vary around the world. According to (Espelage & Hong 2016) “the best strategy to prevent cyberbullying is to provide information for youth, parents, and school personnel on what constitutes cyberbullying and to avoid being the victim” Most training assumes that the term “cyberbully” is already defined by parents and students. Prevention needs to start with knowledge that defines cyberbullying. In some instances educators were knowledgeable about cyberbullying but they were confused on how it actually happens, others reported that their education institutions had no established policies or guidelines on how to handle cyberbullying. Interestingly teens in the United States do not feel comfortable turning to their parents while experiencing cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying allows the bully to remain anonymous; this allows people who normally do no engage in aggressive behavior to adopt a second persona in order to bully others. A teen can create a fake account and establish a fake profile to use towards others by using hurtful comments, posting photos, humiliating words, and rumor spreading. When something is posted online it remains there forever, this act can seriously affect a person’s mental health. Cyberbullying will never go away as long as social media is easily accessible.


  1. Cao, Xiongfei, et al. “The Stimulators of Social Media Fatigue Among Students: Role of Moral Disengagement.” Journal of Educational Computing Research, vol. 57, no. 5, 2018, pp. 1083–1107., doi:10.1177/0735633118781907.
  2. Duarte, Cassandra, et al. “Correlation of Minority Status, Cyberbullying, and Mental Health: A Cross-Sectional Study of 1031 Adolescents.” Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, vol. 11, no. 1, 2018, pp. 39–48., doi:10.1007/s40653-018-0201-4.
  3. Espelage, Dorothy L., and Jun Sung Hong. “Cyberbullying Prevention and Intervention Efforts: Current Knowledge and Future Directions.” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 62, no. 6, 2016, pp. 374–380., doi:10.1177/0706743716684793.
  4. Lin, Liu Yi, et al. “Association Between Social Media Use And Depression Among U.s. Young Adults.” Depression and Anxiety, vol. 33, no. 4, 2016, pp. 323–331., doi:10.1002/da.22466.
  5. Mesch, Gustavo S. “Parent–Child Connections on Social Networking Sites and Cyberbullying.” Youth & Society, vol. 50, no. 8, Nov. 2016, pp. 1145–1162., doi:10.1177/0044118x16659685.
  6. Messias, Erick, et al. “School Bullying, Cyberbullying, or Both: Correlates of Teen Suicidality in the 2011 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey.” Comprehensive Psychiatry, vol. 55, no. 5, 2014, pp. 1063–1068., doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2014.02.005.
  7. Mishna, Faye, et al. “Social Media, Cyber-Aggression and Student Mental Health on a University Campus.” Journal of Mental Health, vol. 27, no. 3, 2018, pp. 222–229., doi:10.1080/09638237.2018.1437607.
  8. O’Reilly, Michelle, et al. “Is Social Media Bad for Mental Health and Wellbeing? Exploring the Perspectives of Adolescents.” Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 23, no. 4, 2018, pp. 601–613., doi:10.1177/1359104518775154.
  9. Vannucci, Anna, et al. “Social Media Use and Risky Behaviors in Adolescents: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Adolescence, vol. 79, 2020, pp. 258–274., doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2020.01.014.
Updated: Dec 14, 2021
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Association between Teenager’s Mental Health and Cyberbullying on Social Media. (2021, Dec 14). Retrieved from

Association between Teenager’s Mental Health and Cyberbullying on Social Media essay
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