When 15-year-old Amanda Todd committed suicide earlier this month, many blamed cyberbullying as the cause. Todd had posted a video to YouTube documenting instances of cyberbullying that included texts and Facebook posts; Todd also indicated she was bullied physically. Unfortunately, she isn’t alone.
A new study released at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition this past weekend shows that cyberbullying is rarely the only reason teens commit suicide. Most suicide cases also involve real-world bullying as well as depression.
The study showed that 78 percent of adolescents who committed suicide were bullied online and offline. Only 17 percent were only bullied online.
The study of 41 suicide cases from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia also showed 13 of the teens suffered from mood disorders and found depression symptoms in another six. Ages of the suicide cases studied ranged from 13 to 18.
Cyberbullying can include Facebook taunts, cruel text messages or the posting of embarrassing YouTube videos. The study author Dr. John C. LeBlanc said in a press release that "certain social media, by virtue of allowing anonymity, may encourage cyberbullying.”
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LeBlanc also found that females were more likely to commit suicide in cases that included cyberbullying.
Other recent studies have disagreed on the prevalence of cyberbullying. A 2011 study from the Pew Research Center for Internet and American Life Project reported that 88 percent of kids ages 12 to 18 said they, “have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social network site." On the other hand, a 2012 study by psychologist Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen, Norway, found that only 5 percent of U.S. students reported that they had been the targets of cyberbullying.
Todd’s suicide became a renewed rallying point for cyberbullying awareness. “RIP Amanda Todd,” a Facebook page created to honor her and others who have taken their lives because of bullying, has garnered 1.1 million followers in the 11 days since it was created.