A recent research study in the US has shown that high school students who are victims of cyberbullying, and physical and/or sexual violence, have riskier attitudes toward their health, such as using drugs or not using condoms during sex.
Cyber harassment is a growing problem worldwide: in the US, it is estimated that approximately 37 of 12- to 17-year-olds have already been bullied online.
A recent American study shows that teenagers who are victimised online are more prone to depression. The research also looked at three other forms of bullying: bullying at school, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
Of the 5,288 students questioned in a 2015 national survey in the US, about one-third of high school students reported having had recent sexual intercourse. Of these, 43% did not use condoms, 21% drank alcohol or used drugs before intercourse and 14% did not use contraception.
According to the authors of the study, the propensity to engage in risky sexual behaviour is significantly higher among boys than girls, particularly among those who are victims of cyberbullying.
The results also showed that all types of harassment were associated with symptoms of depression in both women and men, and that physical and sexual violence increased the likelihood of risky sexual behaviour.
These findings appear to reflect a culture of toxic masculinity and underscore the need to pay special attention to male victims who may be reluctant to identify themselves and, therefore, more at risk of experiencing negative health effects, say the authors of the research.
“It is critical to create safe and private spaces for boys to share their experiences, and we hope that this research will encourage schools to consider efforts to destigmatise victimization through peer mentorship and open communication,” points out researcher Youn Kyoung Kim, a professor at Louisiana State University and the main author of the study.