Risky Business: Talking with Your Patients about Cyberbullying and Sexting

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Key Points:

  • Physicians who treat children and adolescents today are more aware than ever that digital technology use can be associated with several new social problems, notably, cyberbullying (repetitive, deliberate digital cruelty) and sexting (the sending of nude photos to a peer using digital technology).
  • This article reviews existing research on both behaviors and presents new research that explores relatively neglected areas of concern: cyberbullying and cell phone ownership among children aged 8 to 11 year old, and outcomes following sexting, including positive and mixed outcomes.
  • Two samples are studied, the first consisting of 4584 elementary school-aged children, and the second of 1332 college freshman, both studied between 2014 and 2017.
  • Findings were as follows: owning a cell phone significantly increased the risk of becoming involved in cyberbullying, both as a victim and as a perpetrator, among children in grades 3, 4, and 5, but especially among children in grades 3 and 4.
  • Among college freshman who engaged in sexting, 61%reported no outcomes of any kind. Of the 39% who did report consequences following sexting, 19% reported negative outcomes only (i.e., feeling worse or embarrassed, or being bullied or harassed), 13%reported only positive outcomes (i.e., an improved relationship with the picture’s recipient or increased self-confidence), and 7% reported both negative and positive outcomes (mixed).

Original Citation

Englander, E.K. (2018). Risky Business: Talking with Your Patients about Cyberbullying and Sexting. Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 27(2), 287-305. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2017.11.010