Family Meals May Defuse Cyberbullying's Impact

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Family Meals May Defuse Cyberbullying's Impact
Family Meals May Defuse Cyberbullying's Impact

(HealthDay News) — Having regular family meals may help protect teens from the harmful mental health effects of "cyberbullying," a new study suggests. The study was published online September 1 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study included more than 20,000 adolescents in Wisconsin who were asked about their experiences with face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying, and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts.

The link between cyberbullying and these problems was more common among teens who ate fewer meals with their families. The findings suggest that regular family contact and communication may help protect teens against some of the harmful mental health effects of cyberbullying, according to the researchers.

"One in five adolescents experience cyberbullying," Frank Elgar, PhD, a professor at the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in Montreal, said in a university news release. "We found that emotional, behavioral, and substance use problems are 2.6 to 4.5 times more common among victims of cyberbullying. And these impacts are not due to face-to-face bullying; they are specific to cyberbullying," Elgar said, and also emphasized that parental involvement and supervision can help protect youngsters from cyberbullying. "Checking in with teens about their online lives may give them tools to manage online harassment or bullying that can easily go undetected."

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