Internet bullies cause long-term harm
Cyber-bullying can have longer lasting impacts than conventional bullying and do serious psychological damage, new research suggests.
The issue has come to the fore following the deaths of teenagers Erin Gallagher and Ciara Pugsley, who took their own lives after complaining of online bullying.
It will be examined in two papers presented to the Psychological Society of Ireland’s annual conference in Cork this weekend.
Psychologists Dannielle Farrell and Conor McGuckin examined the experience of nine third-level students who had been cyber-bullied in secondary school.
Dr McGuckin, a lecturer in educational and developmental psychology in TCD, said they found evidence that the cyber-bullying had “far reaching and long-term impacts”.
Traditional bullying is by its nature temporary, he explained, while cyber abuse can last into perpetuity.
“The image or the post can be there forever; it can be shared with thousands of people. . . The victim . . . can get repeatedly traumatised. It causes them to internalise things and this can lead to alcohol or substance abuse.
“. . . If it happens in the playground, it happened and can’t be repeated.”
Separately Dr Suzanne Guerin from UCD’s School of Psychology and recent UCD graduate Moya Farrell examined the phenomenon of cyber-bullying among friends at a community school in a Dublin suburb.
They found cyber-banter often led to cyber-bullying, particularly if the material was personal or sensitive in nature. Those who participated in the study believed cyber-bullying was an easier and safer method of bullying because there was no danger of immediate physical retaliation. Several female participants believed cyber-bullying within a group was more likely to occur between girls because girls were more likely to be “bitchy” and to put others down to make themselves feel better.