Cyber-harassment ‘worse than harassment in person’

Being cyberstalked is more stressful and traumatic than being stalked in person, a new study has found.

US Department of Justice statistics reveal that some 850,000 adults, mostly female, are targets of cyberstalking each year.

“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 told the American Psychological Association last week.

“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 that 40 percent of women have experienced dating violence via social media, such as harassing text messages and disturbing information about them posted on social media sites.

The effects on victims include include high levels of ongoing stress, anxiety, fear, nightmares, shock and disbelief, helplessness, hyper-vigilance, changes in eating, and sleeping difficulties.

Meanwhile, to YeoJu Chung of South Korea’s Kyungil University says that over a third of Korean students have been cyberbullied at least once over the last year.

The team asked students to complete a questionnaire about their cyberbullying experiences, self-esteem and how they regulate their emotions.

“The results revealed that cyberbullying makes students socially anxious, lonely, frustrated, sad and helpless,” says Chung.

Students said they were more negatively affected by cyberbullying when it was anonymous and in one-sided sites such as blogs and cyber boards.

Rather depressingly, the research also showed that students who are victims of cyberbullying will often subsequently bully others online.