New research by the University of Georgia suggests the existence of a link between excessive social media use and cyberbullying behavior in teens.
A study led by principal investigator Amanda Giordano, an associate professor in the UGA Mary Frances Early College of Education, found that teens with higher social media addiction scores, who spent more hours online, were more likely to engage in cyberbullying.
Cyberbullies, who carry out behavior such as personal attacks, harassment or discriminatory behavior, spreading defamatory information, misrepresenting oneself online, spreading private information, social exclusion, and cyberstalking, are also more likely to identify as male.
Giordano said that anonymity and freedom from consequences made cyberbullying tempting.
“There are some people who engage in cyberbullying online because of the anonymity and the fact that there’s no retaliation,” she told Mirage News.
“The perpetrator doesn’t get a chance to see how damaging their bullying is and to learn from their mistakes and do something different. It’s a scary situation because they don’t have the natural consequences they do with offline bullying.”
Giordano said adults’ expectations of how teenagers will use the internet may not be realistic.
“You have these adolescents who are still in the midst of cognitive development, but we’re giving them technology that has a worldwide audience and then expecting them to make good choices,” she said.
The 428 young people aged from 13 to 19 who participated in the study reported spending on average over seven hours online per day. The reported average maximum time spent online in a single day exceeded 12 hours.
Giordano said teens who are addicted to social media will scroll through it all night long, even if doing so results in exhaustion, poor grades at school, or arguments with their parents.
She said teens became addicted to the dopamine hit delivered by social networking sites designed to function as popularity contests played out in public.
“It’s feeding into that addictive behavior, and they may be using cyberbullying as a way to get likes, shares, comments and retweets,” said Giordano.
“We need schools and school counselors to do this preventative work early and educate students about the risk of addiction with some of these rewarding behaviors like gaming and social media,” she added.