Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Cyberbullying: How Social Connectedness May Help Victims

New survey: Being involved and interested in others can help us emotionally too.

Source: Bigstock

Social media is a place where many people connect. Some have never met each other in real life—however, they have formed close relationships over the internet. Whether they have similar interests or hobbies, social media has become a common ground for so many people around the globe to gather and create friendships and bonds.

Of course, it doesn't come without its dark side. From trolling to harassment to cyberbullying, sadly, there will always be someone on social media that wants to create havoc or cause other people to feel shame.

According to a Civility in America survey, 69 percent of Americans blame the internet for a perceived rise of incivility in society.

Good News

A new Psychology in the Schools study found that social connectedness may act as a protective buffer against the negative mental health effects of cyberbullying.

This online survey of adolescents (aged 12-17 years old) examined experiences of cyberbullying, levels of social connectedness, depression, anxiety, and stress. When the young person was more socially connected, they were less likely to experience depression, anxiety, and stress as a result of cyber-victimization.

The lead author, Dr. Larisa McLoughlin shares the importance of understanding social connectedness to help reduce the effects of online harassment:

"It is important for young people, and their parents, to understanding how important feeling connected actually is, and that these feelings of connection can be just as real online as they are offline," said Dr. Larisa McLoughlin, of the University of the Sunshine Coast, in Australia.

Social Connectedness

Social connectedness is the measure of how people come together and interact—and social media is where the majority of teens reside today.

A 2018 PEW survey, Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences, shares that the majority of teens (81 percent) feel more connected to their friends because of social media and 68 percent feel as if they have people that will support them if they are going through a difficult time.

Although online-hate is still a concern, 45 percent of teens said they are sometimes overwhelmed by the digital drama—while 13 percent say they feel this way a lot. Interestingly, teens’ resilience is kicking in—as 44 percent reported either unfriending or unfollow people that harass, bully or are cruel online.

When asked why they’ve digitally disconnected from others, 78 percent of this group report doing so because people created too much drama, while 52 percent cite the bullying of them or others.

Nearly half of teens say they at least sometimes spend time in online groups or forums, and the types of forums they gravitate toward tend to vary by gender. And although boys and girls are equally likely to ever join an online group, boys are twice as likely as girls to say they often spend time in these groups (15 percent vs. 8 percent).

Teens credit online groups for introducing them to new people and making them feel more accepted.

We're In This Together

While the study is related to young people, it's important to note that having social connectedness at all ages can be beneficial—especially if we experience difficult times.

As we have seen a rise in incivility online, it's important to reach out to our cyber-friends if we see them hurting, send an email or private message asking if they are okay, understanding that kindness is contagious—and it starts with us.


Psychology in Schools study

PEW Research Survey: Teens' Social Media Habits and Experiences

More from Psychology Today

More from Sue Scheff

More from Psychology Today