Behind the Screen: The Hidden Impact of Cyberbullying on Mental Wellbeing

The internet has revolutionized the way we connect, but it’s also created a new space for bullying: cyberbullying. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying can happen anywhere, anytime, and can feel inescapable. This constant barrage of negativity can have a profound impact on a person’s mental well-being.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the hidden world of cyberbullying, exploring its different forms, the emotional toll it takes, and the steps we can take to address it.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. It can take many forms, including:

  • Sending mean or hurtful texts, emails, or messages on social media.
  • Posting embarrassing photos or videos of someone online without their consent.
  • Spreading rumors or lies about someone online.
  • Excluding someone from online groups or activities.
  • Impersonating someone online to make them look bad.

These actions might seem harmless from behind a screen, but for the target, they can be incredibly damaging.

The Emotional Scars of Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying isn’t just name-calling on the playground – it’s a relentless attack on a person’s sense of self, leaving deep emotional wounds. While the immediate effects might be clear (sadness, anger), the scars of cyberbullying can linger long after the messages stop. Let’s delve deeper into the emotional toll cyberbullying takes on its victims.

The Pit of Despair: Depression

Imagine feeling constantly isolated, worthless, and with a heavy weight of hopelessness pressing down. That’s the reality for many cyberbullying victims. The relentless negativity can chip away at a person’s self-worth, leading to depression, a serious mental health condition. Symptoms of depression can include:

  • A persistent feeling of sadness or emptiness
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you notice these signs in yourself or someone you know, it’s crucial to seek help. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, therapist, or counselor can be the first step towards healing.

Living on Edge: Anxiety

Cyberbullying creates a constant state of unease. The fear of the next hurtful message, the worry of what others might be saying, and the feeling of being constantly under attack can trigger anxiety. This can manifest in physical symptoms like:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Racing heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

Anxiety can make it challenging to function at school, work, or even in social situations. There are effective ways to manage anxiety, including relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication, when appropriate.

Shattered Confidence: Low Self-Esteem

Cyberbullies often target insecurities. They exploit flaws, real or perceived, to make their victims feel inadequate. When this barrage of negativity continues, it can erode a person’s self-esteem. Victims may start to believe the things bullies say, feeling like they’re not good enough, lovable enough, or worthy of respect. This can have a ripple effect, impacting relationships, academic performance, and overall well-being.

Retreating from the World: Social Withdrawal

Feeling attacked and humiliated online can make victims hesitant to interact with others in person. They may withdraw from social activities, isolate themselves from friends and family, and avoid situations where they might face judgment. This social withdrawal can further exacerbate feelings of loneliness and depression.

The Darkest Thoughts: Suicidal Ideation

In the most severe cases, cyberbullying can push a person to the brink. The constant negativity, feelings of isolation, and hopelessness can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, it’s vital to reach out for help immediately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US: 988 or UK: 116 123) or seek professional help from a therapist or counselor.

Real-Life Example: In 2013, Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old Canadian girl, took her own life after years of cyberbullying. A nude photo of her was circulated online, and she was relentlessly harassed by bullies. This tragic case serves as a stark reminder of the devastating impact cyberbullying can have.

Why Does Cyberbullying Hurt So Much?

There are several reasons why cyberbullying can be so damaging:

  • Anonymity: Cyberbullies often hide behind anonymity, which can make them feel more empowered to say cruel things.
  • 24/7 Presence: Cyberbullying can follow a person anywhere, anytime. There’s no escape from the harassment.
  • Audience Factor: Cyberbullying can be shared with a large audience online, making it feel even more humiliating.
  • Permanent Record: Once something is posted online, it can be difficult to erase. The evidence of the bullying can linger for years.

These factors combine to make cyberbullying a particularly harmful form of bullying.


Taking Action: How to Stop Cyberbullying

If you or someone you know is being cyberbullied, there are steps you can take:

Don’t respond: 

Responding to a cyberbully can encourage them to continue. The best course of action is often to ignore them.

Save the evidence: 

Keep screenshots or copies of the cyberbullying messages. This evidence can be helpful if you need to report the bullying.

Block the bully: 

Most social media platforms allow you to block users who are harassing you.

Report the bullying: 

Report the cyberbullying to the website or platform where it’s happening. They may take action against the bully.

Talk to someone you trust: 

Tell a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend about what’s happening. Supportive people can help you cope with the situation.

There are also resources available to help with cyberbullying. Here are a few helpful websites:

Parents and teachers play a crucial role in combating cyberbullying and supporting its victims. Here are some key ways they can make a difference:

Open Communication:

  • Create a Safe Space: Foster an environment where children feel comfortable talking about their online experiences, both positive and negative. Let them know they can come to you with any concerns about cyberbullying without fear of punishment.
  • Start Early Conversations: Don’t wait for a problem to arise before talking to your children about cyberbullying. Begin discussions early, explaining what it is and the potential consequences.
  • Be Approachable: Use a calm and non-judgmental tone when discussing cyberbullying. Let your child know you’re there to listen and help, not to criticize.

Digital Literacy:

  • Teach Online Safety: Educate your children about responsible online behavior. This includes topics like respecting others online, not sharing personal information with strangers, and being critical of the information they find online.
  • Set Ground Rules: Establish clear ground rules for internet and technology use at home. This could include setting time limits, restricting access to certain websites, and requiring your child to report any cyberbullying they encounter.
  • Explore Apps and Platforms Together: Take some time to learn about the apps and platforms your child uses. This will help you understand the potential risks and features available to manage online safety.

Identifying Cyberbullying:

Emotional Shifts:

  • Withdrawal and isolation: A previously outgoing child who suddenly becomes withdrawn and prefers to spend most of their time alone could be a sign of cyberbullying. Pay attention to a decrease in interest in social activities, hanging out with friends, or participating in family outings.
  • Mood swings and irritability: Unexplained mood swings, outbursts of anger, or frequent tearfulness can be indicators of emotional distress. Cyberbullying can create a constant sense of unease, leading to unpredictable emotions.
  • Changes in sleep and appetite: Does your child seem more tired than usual? Are they skipping meals or eating excessively? Significant changes in sleep patterns or eating habits can be signs of underlying anxiety or depression, which can be triggered by cyberbullying.
  • Loss of interest in activities: Has your child lost interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed? This could be a way of coping with the emotional turmoil caused by cyberbullying.

Changes in Online Behavior:

  • Secrecy and protectiveness: Is your child suddenly secretive about their phone or computer use? Do they become visibly anxious when you enter the room while they’re online? This secretiveness could be a sign they’re hiding something related to cyberbullying.
  • Increased frustration or anger online: Pay attention to how your child reacts while using their devices. Do they seem unusually frustrated or angry after spending time online? This could be a reaction to cyberbullying interactions.
  • Sudden changes in online accounts: Has your child deactivated or changed their social media accounts abruptly? This could be an attempt to escape cyberbullying on a specific platform.

Responding to Cyberbullying:

  • Develop a Plan: Talk to your child about what to do if they encounter cyberbullying. This might include ignoring the bully, blocking them, or reporting the incident to you or the appropriate authorities.
  • Provide Support: If your child is being cyberbullied, let them know you’re there for them and offer your support. Help them document the cyberbullying and consider reporting it to the platform or school administration.
  • Seek Professional Help: If your child is struggling to cope with cyberbullying, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in cyberbullying issues.

Teachers can also play a vital role by:

Creating a Culture of Respect: 

Foster a classroom environment where kindness and respect are valued. Address any incidents of bullying immediately and communicate that cyberbullying will not be tolerated.

Integrating Digital Citizenship Lessons: 

Integrate lessons on digital citizenship into the curriculum. This can teach students about responsible online behavior, cyberbullying prevention, and online safety.

Working with Parents: 

Maintain open communication with parents about cyberbullying issues. Share resources and work together to create a consistent message around online safety.

Remember: By working together, parents, teachers, and children can create a safer online environment for everyone.


Cyberbullying is a serious issue with potentially devastating consequences. However, by being aware of the risks, taking proactive steps to prevent it, and knowing how to respond, we can create a more positive and supportive online experience for everyone.

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