Title: “Cyberbullying and Eating Disorders: What Teens Need to Know”
In today’s digital age, where screens and social media are a big part of our lives, a new study has found a concerning link between cyberbullying and eating disorder symptoms among adolescents aged 10-14. This means that both those who are victims of cyberbullying and those who engage in cyberbullying may be at risk of experiencing eating disorder-related issues.
The study, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, sheds light on how cyberbullying can lead to problems such as worrying about weight gain, connecting self-worth to body image, binge eating, and distress related to overeating.
Lead author Chloe M. Cheng, a senior medical student at the University of California, San Francisco, explains, “Cyberbullying could lead to low self-esteem, body image dissatisfaction, and unhealthy attempts to control weight, which could impact the risk of mental health issues, including eating disorder symptoms.”
Jason M. Nagata, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, emphasizes the importance of addressing this issue: “Adolescents should limit social media that encourages eating disorders and appearance comparisons. Parents should advise their children to avoid cyberbullying and encourage them to report online harassment if it occurs.”
This study builds on our understanding of eating disorders in adolescents, a condition that sadly has one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric disorder. The research relies on data from the nationwide Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, which is the most extensive long-term study of brain development in the United States. The study involved 11,875 children aged 10-14, who were asked about their experiences with cyberbullying, both as victims and perpetrators, as well as their encounters with eating disorder symptoms.
Co-author Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, points out the importance of further research in this area: “This study emphasizes the need for more research on how cyberbullying is related to the mental well-being of early adolescents. In particular, future research should focus on whether there are associations between cyberbullying and specific eating disorders in early adolescents.”