Impacts of Cyberbullying on Adolescent Mental Health


Young adults spend more time online than ever before, which brings opportunities and obstacles. One specific challenge is a form of harassment known as cyberbullying. Understanding the implications of this phenomenon is crucial for parents, educators and mental health professionals working to support young people’s well-being.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying occurs when people use digital platforms – like social media, texts or emails – to harm others. This malicious behavior can manifest in various ways:

  • Sending threatening messages.
  • Spreading harmful rumors online to embarrass someone.
  • Posting explicit or embarrassing photos of someone without their consent.
  • Creating fake profiles to impersonate or mock someone.
  • Encouraging others to join the harassment.

Prevalence of Cyberbullying Among Teens

Cyberbullying is alarmingly common. According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of U.S. teens have experienced some form of online teasing, mocking or abuse. Instagram, in particular, is a hotspot for these activities, with 42% of teens reporting harassment experiences on the platform. Vulnerable groups – including those from marginalized communities, adolescents with fewer social connections and those struggling with their identity – are particularly at risk.

Mental and Emotional Effects of Cyberbullying

The impact of cyberbullying on adolescent mental health can be severe and enduring. Some of the most common psychological effects include the following.

  • Anxiety and depression: Continuous online harassment can lead to persistent feelings of anxiety and depression, as victims feel increasingly helpless and hopeless.
  • Low self-esteem: Being the target of cyberbullying can severely damage a young man’s self-esteem and self-worth, leading them to question their value and capabilities.
  • Social isolation: Many victims choose to withdraw from social interactions to avoid further bullying.
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors: In extreme cases, the relentless emotional toll of cyberbullying can drive young people to consider or attempt suicide.
  • Poor academic performance: Cyberbullied students who have trouble concentrating on their studies might start skipping classes or even drop out of school.

Addressing and Combating Cyberbullying

Addressing cyberbullying requires a multifaceted approach.

  • Education and awareness: Schools and communities must educate children and teenagers about the effects of cyberbullying and the importance of respectful communication online.
  • Support systems: Establishing robust support systems including counseling services, help lines, and online resources can provide essential aid to victims.
  • Parental involvement: Parents should have open conversations with their teens about their online activities and encourage them to speak up if they experience or witness cyberbullying.
  • Legal and school policies: Strengthening policies to address and penalize cyberbullying can help deter perpetrators and protect victims.

How PACE Recovery Can Help

At PACE Recovery, we understand the profound impact cyberbullying can have on adolescent mental health. We have designed gender-specific programming to help young men between the ages of 18 and 30 deal with issues like anxiety, depression, guilt and anger management, providing clients with the tools they need to recover and build resilience against future adversities. Reach out to us if you or your child struggles with the aftermath of cyberbullying.