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Cyberbullying Rarely Single Factor in Teen Suicides: Study

Researcher says anonymity may encourage online bullying

SATURDAY, Oct. 20, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Cyberbullying is rarely the only factor behind teen suicides, according to a small study.

The researchers found that most teen suicide victims are bullied both online and in school, and that many also suffer from depression.

For the study, the investigators analyzed 41 suicide cases in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. There were 24 female and 17 male victims, ages 13 to 18.

Twenty-four percent of the teens were the victims of homophobic bullying. Of those, half were identified as homosexual and the other half were identified as heterosexual or of unknown sexual preference.

Seventy-eight percent of the teens were bullied both at school and online. Just 17 percent were targeted online only. Thirty-two percent of the victims had been diagnosed with a mood disorder and 15 percent with depression symptoms.

The study was scheduled for presentation Saturday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' national conference in New Orleans.

"Cyberbullying is a factor in some suicides, but almost always there are other factors such as mental illness or face-to-face bullying," study author Dr. John LeBlanc said in an academy news release. "Cyberbullying usually occurs in the context of regular bullying."

He and his colleagues found that cyberbullying occurred through various media, with Formspring and Facebook specifically mentioned in 21 cases, and text or video messaging noted in 14 cases.

"Certain social media, by virtue of allowing anonymity, may encourage cyberbullying," LeBlanc said. "It is difficult to prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but I believe there is little justification for anonymity."

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Crime Prevention Council has more about cyberbullying.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Oct. 20, 2012
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