The Relationship Between Cyber-Bullying & Self-Esteem by Dr. Melanie Hetzel-Riggin

Cyber-bullying, or the mistreatment of others through digital means, can cause significant damage. While cyber-bullying can negatively affect a person in a number of different ways, I want to focus on the relationship between cyber-bullying and self-esteem. Self-esteem is a person’s belief that they are a worthwhile person, or the degree to which a person has a positive attitude towards him or herself. Numerous research studies have shown that cyberbullying can lead to decreased self-esteem in the target of mistreatment (Chang et al., 2013; Nixon, 2014; Wigderson & Lynch, 2013). Cyber-victimization by known peers can augment or replace traditional, face-to-face mistreatment, which has consistently shown to lead to lowered self-esteem and self-image. Additionally, cybervictimization by anonymous perpetrators can be just as damaging. The anonymity of the internet can allow perpetrators to be crueler and more relentless in their mistreatment. In addition, if a target is called names or threatened by people he or she does not even know, that can further support perceptions that the target is a damaged, worthless person—the interpretation by the target is often, “there is something wrong with me”—especially in adolescents who already may have a more fragile sense of self. What is even more troubling is that factors that seem to protect victims from traditional, face-to-face bullying (life satisfaction, social support from peers and family) are not as effective in buffering the effects of cyberbullying on a target’s self-esteem (Ubertini, 2011). As a result, targets may experience an increase in depression, anxiety, and suicidality because of the related decreased self-esteem.

Those who perpetrate cyberbullying also often have poor self-esteem. Empirical research has linked low self-esteem to increased risk of more frequent and more severe peer victimization (Nixon, 2015; Patchin & Hinduja, 2010). Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja (2011) suggested that cyberbullying perpetration often occurs because of increased strain on the individual—when someone has increased negative emotions due to threats to one’s self-esteem, he or she is at an increased risk of engaging in cyberperpetration. Recent research on cyberbullying behavior within a video-game milieu showed that males who were less proficient at a game were more likely to be hostile and engage in bullying behavior than males who were skilled at the game (Kasumovic & Kuznekoff, 2015). It is likely that the less proficient players also had lower self-esteem, and the cyberbullying behavior was their attempt to cope with that low self-esteem by trying to increase their sense of power over others.

Given that low self-esteem is associated with both cyberbullying victimization and perpetration, it is important to implement intervention programs that address self-esteem. Teaching youth ways to improve their self-esteem by changing their cognitive appraisals of situations, improving emotion regulation skills, and engaging in activities that provide success and mastery can increase self-esteem—and therefore reduce cyberbullying. Increased skills in empathy and perspective taking, often taught through mentoring and other community connections, can also improve self-esteem as well as interpersonal and emotional expression skills. Educators and parents should also be on the lookout for changes in self-esteem in youth as a potential red flag for both cyberbullying victimization and perpetration.

Melanie D. Hetzel-Riggin, Ph.D.
PSU Associate Professor of Psychology


Chang, F. C., Lee, C. M., Chiu, C. H., Hsi, W. Y., Huang, T. F., & Pan, Y. C. (2013). Relationships among cyberbullying, school bullying, and mental health in Taiwanese adolescents. Journal of school health, 83(6), 454-462.

Kasumovic, M. M., & Kuznekoff, J. H. (2015). Insights into Sexism: Male Status and Performance Moderates Female-Directed Hostile and Amicable Behaviour. PloS one, 10(7), e0131613.

Nixon, C. L. (2014). Current perspectives: the impact of cyberbullying on adolescent health. Adolescent health, medicine and therapeutics, 5, 143-158.

Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. (2010). Cyberbullying and self‐esteem. Journal of School Health, 80(12), 614-621.

Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. (2011). Traditional and nontraditional bullying among youth: A test of general strain theory. Youth & Society, 43(2), 727-751. doi:


Ubertini, M. (2011). Cyberbullying may reduce adolescent’s well-being: Can life satisfaction and social support protect them?(Order No. AAI3431797). Available from PsycINFO. (882110639; 2011-99120-196)

Wigderson, S., & Lynch, M. (2013). Cyber-and traditional peer victimization: Unique relationships with adolescent well-being. Psychology of Violence, 3(4), 297-309.

The Relationship Between Cyber-Bullying & Self-Esteem by Dr. Melanie Hetzel-Riggin

Avoid the Pitfalls Social Media Plays Regarding Getting into Your Dream College by Alex Stuart

Thousands of high school students every year work extremely hard to get into the college of their dreams. There are so many factors that make someone a good applicant to college, and students work at excelling at every one of them. Academics, athletics, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and even a part-time job. But what if all of the hard work you’ve put in turns out to be for nothing? Your dream school, the college that you’ve always wanted to attend, may be very interested in you on paper as an applicant. However, what if they see your social media accounts? Will they like what they see?

According to a 2013 questionnaire from Kaplan Test Prep, 31 percent of college admissions officers say that they have browsed at least one social media page from perspective applicants in the past year, typically Facebook or Twitter. What’s more disheartening is that out of that group, almost 30 percent found information that negatively affected an applicant’s prospects. With numbers like these, students can’t afford to be putting risky information out on the internet. However, they still seem to be engaging in these kinds of behaviors.

How can you avoid being a statistic? Despite what you may think, there are ways that you can protect yourself from the typical pitfalls of social media:

Don’t post anything problematic at all:
Sounds simple enough right? To avoid getting into trouble with college admissions officers, don’t post anything negative at all! Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic. As a young person, you are always going to make mistakes without fully realizing what you’re doing. So how do you avoid those rare slip-ups? Services such as My Social Sitter work with an algorithm to prevent anything harmful from being posted. It analyzes your posts, and alerts you to any negative or problematic language. When getting into college is so important, My Social Sitter will protect you on any and all social media platforms.

Don’t post anything negative related to a prospective college:
When colleges have thousands and thousands of applicants, it can be tough to look at individual profiles. However, if you put yourself in a position for them to read what you have to say, you could get yourself in a sticky situation. These include: negative posts on an accepted students group, tweeting or posting about prospective student visiting days, and more. If the college is researching themselves, and you have negative things to say, there are potential consequences. It could negatively affect your application status, or your acceptance could be rescinded.

Private not play:
It is a time honored tradition among high school seniors to alter their name or appearance on social media profiles, so “colleges can’t find them”. In reality, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is by making your account PRIVATE. It’s all fun and games until you realize that your information is still public for all to see. Assuring that your privacy settings are airtight for photos, information, and your entire profile itself are the best thing you can do to keep your information safe.

The college application process is supposed to fun and exciting, your life is changing for the better! You have worked hard and you deserve to succeed in all of your endeavors in life. Don’t let mistakes on social media keep you from reaching your full potential!


Avoid the Pitfalls Social Media Plays Regarding Getting into Your Dream College by Alex Stuart

An Interview with Stephanie about her perception of cyber-bullying by Sara Petsis

Stephanie L. is a 15-year-old girl that just completed her freshman year of high school.

Stephanie, how would you define cyber-bullying in your own words?
Putting down other people online. Even if it’s just a joke or you think they’ll never see what you’re saying. It can be really hurtful.

About how often would you say you deal with cyber-bullying incidents?
Personally, I’ve dealt with it a couple of times. But I probably see examples of it online every single day.

So you’ve been a victim of cyber-bullying?
Yes. At one point probably everyone has.

Did you feel like you were capable of handling that situation?
Yes. I told my mom about it which helped.

Do they teach about cyber-bullying at all at your school?
We had an assembly presentation about it once or twice, but not really.

Would you be punished by your school for instigating a cyber-bullying incident?
I’m not sure.

Do you think your school should better address the cyber-bullying problem?
Definitely. It might prevent a lot of problems that are happening constantly.

An Interview with Stephanie about her perception of cyber-bullying by Sara Petsis