Research Looks at Cyberbullying and Adolescents 


Approximately 90 percent of adolescents worldwide use social media. They carry it with them in their pockets and backpacks and take it to bed at night. Essentially, they have 24/7 accessibility to social media right in the palm of their hands. Always on, always available, connecting and possibly harming their mental and behavioral health at alarming rates.

“More and more of our youth patients hint at social media as being a factor leading to anxiety, insecurities and depression,” said Jesse Florang, EdD, therapist at CHI Health Richard Young Behavioral Health. “Surprisingly, there is limited research for mental health professionals to draw upon to help us improve current assessment procedures and treatment practices to account for this relatively new phenomenon created by advancing technology.”

Gone are the days of stolen lunch money in the hall. Today’s bullies find the vulnerable online. Last year 72 percent of adolescents reported being cyberbullied at least once and only one-third reported their victimization to an adult.


According to Florang, that number is only going to increase. “We wanted to better understand what we are fighting against, so we could do something as mental health professionals to help.”

The recently finalized research project, “Relationships between Cyberbullying and Depression among Adolescents in an Acute Inpatient Psychiatric Hospital,” was that help. Florang, Suzanne Goetz, RN, PhD, and Linda Jensen, PhD, studied 100 (70 female/30 male) adolescent inpatients at Richard Young in Kearney, Nebraska. The study used a three part self-report survey including the Cyber Peer Experiences Questionnaire, the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale and demographic data from all participants. The findings suggest:

  • A substantial association between cyber victimization and cyber aggression.
  • A moderate association between cyber victimization and depression.
  • Females are more likely to have experienced cyber victimization and participated in cyber aggression than males.

Implications from the findings:

  • Adolescents would benefit from programs designed to promote the social skills necessary to appropriately cope with cyberbullying.
  • Orem’s self-care theory can be a beneficial guide for health care professionals to develop treatment plans and provide care for adolescents through identifying problems and teaching independence.
  • Adolescent psychiatric hospitals need to ensure that they are assessing cyberbullying through risk assessments and initial psychiatric evaluations.
  • More research should place emphasis on developing gender specific groups, classes and assessment tools due to the differences found between males and females in regard to cyberbullying.

The report has been submitted to several journals for publication.

“We hope our study shows the need for inpatient psychiatric hospitals, like ours, to update assessment and treatment procedures to account for the impact cyberbullying has on the adolescent population,” said Goetz. “Technology is growing, changing at faster and faster rates. To help our patients, we too must keep pace.”