(Ivanhoe Newswire) — If you’ve been stalked, bullied, or harassed online, your health could suffer.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 850,000 adults are targets of cyberstalking each year. About 20 percent of online stalkers use social networking sites to stalk their victims. Now, new research shows individuals who are stalked or harassed online experience higher levels of stress and trauma than people who are stalked or harassed in person.
“Increasingly, stalkers use modern technology to monitor and torment their victims, and one in four victims report some form of cyberstalking, such as threatening emails or instant messaging,” Elizabeth Carll, Ph.D., was quoted as saying.
Researchers say responses to the stress and trauma experienced by the victims may include ongoing stress, anxiety, fear, nightmares, shock and disbelief, feelings of helplessness, hyper-vigilance, changes in eating, and sleeping difficulties.
“It is my observation that the symptoms related to cyberstalking and e-harassment may be more intense than in-person harassment, as the impact is more devastating due to the 24/7 nature of online communication, inability to escape to a safe place, and global access of the information,” Carll said.
Dr. Carll also said the same technologies that are used to harass individuals may also be used to intervene and prevent harassment. “Imagine a cell phone application that can tell you if someone threatening you is nearby,” Carll said. “That could be life-saving.”
In a second study, researchers found 36 percent of students had been cyberbullied at least once in the last year. Students were more likely to be negatively affected by the cyberbullying if it was anonymous and one-sided (such as a blog).
“The results revealed that cyberbullying makes students socially anxious, lonely, frustrated, sad and helpless,” YeoJu Chung, Ph.D., of South Korea’s Kyungil University, was quoted as saying.
Those who said they obsessed about the cyberbullying were more likely to suffer serious stress. Students who focused on more positive thoughts were able to recover more quickly and cope better. The research also showed students who were cyberbullied by others were more likely to cyber bully themselves.
SOURCE: 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association