Cybervictimization in adolescence and its association with subsequent suicidal ideation/attempt beyond face‐to‐face victimization: a longitudinal population‐based study – video Q & A

Matt Kempen
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Q & A about the paper ‘Cybervictimization in adolescence and its association with subsequent suicidal ideation/attempt beyond face‐to‐face victimization: a longitudinal population‐based study’.

Authors: Lea C. Perret, Massimiliano Orri, Michel Boivin, Isabelle Ouellet‐Morin, Anne‐Sophie Denault, Sylvana M. Côté, Richard E. Tremblay, Johanne Renaud, Gustavo Turecki, Marie‐Claude Geoffroy.

First published: 03 February 2020

Transcript (Translated to English)

Léa Perret: Cyberbullying is a form of intimidation but through technological means.  So, for example, it might be that a young person is the target of insulting comments or rumours through social media.

Our study shows that roughly one in ten teenagers has been cyberbullied during the school year. We also know, we have found, that there are age and gender differences. Girls are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying, and there is a trend towards cyberbullying occurring around the age of fourteen, fifteen.

Literature and our study have demonstrated that nearly half of adolescent victims of cyberbullying are also victims of other forms of bullying, for example of being verbally insulted at school. We have also proven, that is the result to be underlined, that teenagers that have been cyberbullied are at a two to four times higher risk of having suicidal ideas during the same year. However, our results have shown that this risk is not high if suicidal ideas are considered two years later.

Marie‐Claude Geoffroy: Even if our study shows an association between cyberbullying and suicidal ideas, cyberbullying will not necessarily be the cause of this problem. Firstly, only a minority of the youth victims of cyberbullying are going to think of suicide. And that is a complex phenomenon, there are lots of other factors playing a role, and it might be that cyberbullying is one of those factors, but certainly in conjunction with other problems.

But our study indicates that most of the teens that engage in cyberbullying another teen come from the same school. Therefore, in this case I advise parents to go to the school, see the principal, see the teachers, discuss the situation with the school staff, and see what can be done in collaboration with the school to really try to stop cyberbullying.

As a psychologist, I’m well aware that adolescence is a difficult period. At the same time, studies such as ours may raise concerns among parents. And thus, it’d be justified to ask oneself, does my teenager have dark thoughts? Is he/she thinking of taking his/her own life? The question is all the more important since not all teenagers that think of suicide are willing to talk about it with their parents. And not all parents will dare to ask the question because many fear that this might be a way of putting ideas into their teen’s heads. But in fact there is no study claiming that asking the question may lead to a risk. On the contrary, it can save lives since we have the information, and then we can intervene.

Therefore, worried parents at home: don’t hesitate to ask the question to your teenager. Are you having dark thoughts? Do you think of taking your life? And then, I’d advise parents against launching themselves into evaluating the severity of suicidal ideas, because it is a complex process even for experienced professionals. In Quebec there are helplines to ask for assistance. I encourage parents to turn to the resources that are available to try and find the appropriate information and resources to help their youths.

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