Category: Child / Adolescent - School-Related Issues
Emerging research has suggested that LGBTQ youth and young adults are at risk for more frequent cyberbullying victimization when compared to heterosexual and cisgender peers (Myers, Swearer, Martin, & Palacios, in press). This is concerning, given that many LGBTQ individuals engage online as a means of finding support and identity-relevant information (Varjas, Meyers, Kiperman, & Howard, 2013). While increased technology use may place LGBTQ youth at-risk for frequent online victimization, as well as the psychosocial concerns related with cyberbullying (e.g., depression, low self-esteem; Bonanno & Hymel, 2013; Patchin & Hinduja, 2010), youth who disclose their identity and find support from others may experience additional protection (António & Moleiro, 2015; Meyer, 2003; Ybarra, Mitchell, Palmer, & Reisner, 2015). However, research has also suggested that coming out to others may place youth at-risk for increased harassment and depressive symptoms (Riggle, Rostosky, Black, & Rosenkrantz, 2017; Watson, Wheldon, & Russell, 2015). Given this mixed support, as well as the paucity of research examining the cyberbullying experiences of LGBTQ youth, the purpose of this study was to further examine the protective nature of these factors for sexual and gender minority youth and young adults experiencing cyberbullying victimization.
Data were collected from 1,352 participants ages 13 to 25 (M = 19.71; SD = 2.93) as part of a larger, international study examining social experiences among young people world-wide (68.2% outside of the United States). Participants identified primarily as Caucasian (61.1%), male(63.5%), and lesbian or gay (57.3%).
A simple path analysis revealed that while cyberbullying victimization was positively associated with depressive symptoms, neither participant outness nor family support served as moderators. However, after adding perceptions of friendship support to the model, cyberbullying did not evidence a unique association with depressive symptoms, β = .10, p = .15. In addition, perceptions of friendship support was negatively associated with depressive symptoms, β = - .36, p < .001. The interaction was also significant, β = -.15, p = .05. Simple slopes analysis found a positive association between cyberbullying and greater depressive symptoms for participants with low perceptions of friendship support, b = 3.26, t(1178) = 2.53, p = .01. In contrast, when perceptions of friendship support was high, no association was evident, b = -.50, t(1178) = -0.35, p = .73. Thus, support from friends appears to serve as a protective factor for LGBTQ youth experiencing frequent cyberbullying victimization. It is important for clinicians who work with LGBTQ young people to assess and help facilitate the development of positive peer supports.