Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guest Post: Cyberbullying

Since October is National Bullying Prevention month, I decided to interview Health Studies' Dr. Katie Crosslin and get her input on this social problem. Dr. Crosslin focuses her research on an aspect of bullying that is becoming more and more prevalent - cyberbullying.

What exactly is cyberbullying? How is it defined? 

“My boyfriend’s ex-wife relentlessly texts me 15 times per day, leaves multiple voice messages on my phone, and has even stalked me at college.” 

Cyberbullying is becoming a significant issue with how we increasingly utilize technology to communicate. The above scenario is a real-life example of what can happen when people use technology to harass, inflict harm, and stalk others. There are several reasons why bullying may occur via digital means, whether it be to intimidate, gang up on others, or even for a good laugh. While some cyberbullies may be unaware of the damage they inflict on their victims, research suggests that these actions can be intentional, too.

The word “cyberbullying” implies that unwanted harassment occurs via the Internet; however, it is difficult to define cyberbullying with the plethora of communication methods. Not only do we use the Internet along with several social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), but other forms of digital communications are also utilized such as email, text, and instant messaging. Research is currently underway to better understand and define cyberbullying, although an accepted definition is referred to as “being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful material or engaging in other forms of social aggression using the Internet or other digital technologies” (1).

What are the potential issues that can arise with students who are bullied? What about the students who do the bullying – are there potential health risks for them? 

“I was very angry and it made me re-evaluate all the people I had met at school. I thought I was close to everyone, but I withdrew and made very few friends.”

Several research studies have been conducted among K-12 students to understand the psychological effects from cyberbullying. The fact that some attacks are anonymous can leave a victim feeling fearful and anxious about who might be behind the attack. Victims also have reported feeling anger, sadness, depression, and thoughts of suicide (2). In some circumstances, individuals have taken their own lives due to online harassment. Only about 10% of children tell their parents or another adult about being cyberbullied (3). It can be very difficult for a young person to handle this type of harassment, and parents are recommended to monitor their children’s online/digital communications.

Bullies themselves also face consequences. Alarmingly, over half of bullies in middle school have a criminal conviction by their early 20’s. In regards to suicide, bullies are at an even higher risk for suicide attempts than victims (4). More research is needed to understand how cyberbullies are affected in the long-term and ways to intervene to reduce future criminal offenses.

Although the majority of research has been directed toward young children, cyberbullying is a problem for adults and can even occur in the workplace. I currently conduct research to learn how college students are affected and have seen that there are many psychological ramifications. For instance one victim reported the following: “I didn't see the point in living this way. When it got really bad, I didn't see the point of living at all. I felt trapped, because I was surrounded by these girls, who wrote hate messages on Facebook and prank called me once a week. I felt very helpless and that no one really cared.” There are many other situations that are similar to this one in which the victim is emotionally tormented by others usually due to a relational conflict or recent break-up (5).

What are some of the warning signs that individuals should be aware of that could alert them to the possibility of cyberbullying going on in someone’s life? Or, maybe some warning signs that bullying is becoming a critical issue that needs immediate intervention?

“Emotionally I was scared. I was threatened and always afraid to look at the computer or phone.”

If someone you are close with suddenly becomes apprehensive about using the computer or another electronic device, it is worth discussing it before the problem escalates. Other signs may include depression or anger after receiving a text or instant message (6). At times, a victim may retaliate against the cyberbully to seek revenge and may use several accounts on a social networking site to communicate with the cyberbully without be linked to the conversations. If parents discover that their child is being cyberbullied, it is best to work with the child and help him/her to be part of the process in communicating with the school and/or the bully to resolve the issue.

What can people do if they are concerned about particular cyberbullying incidents? 

“I was very angry for a while, but I rose above it. Once they realized I wasn't  going to retaliate, it seems that they stopped.”

Victims of cyberbullying tend to spend more time on the Internet than non-victims. People who utilize social media sites should pay attention to their privacy settings to ensure that only trusted friends see their information online.  Remember that what you say online stays forever, so don’t write anything that you will regret later on. Young people should keep track of any cyberbullying incidences to show an adult (i.e., parent or teacher) in the event that it worsens or you need law enforcement to intervene. If you are ever a witness to cyberbullying, you have the opportunity to do something to help the victim.

Health educators are trained to work with communities to reduce or eliminate health problems through the processes of assessment, program planning, implementation, and evaluation. Violence prevention, which includes cyberbullying, is an important area to include when designing programs within schools and communities and is the key to raise awareness at the societal level.


1. Willard N. Cyberbullying legislation and school policies. Center for Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet Web site. Retrieved online July 1, 2012, from ttp://

2. Hoff D, Mitchell S. (2009). Cyberbullying: Causes, effects, and remedies. Journal of Educational Administration, 47(5), p. 652-665.

3. Bullying statistics. (n.d.). Cyberbulling statistics. Retrieved online March 24, 2011, from

4. Bostic, J.Q., & Brunt, C.C. (2011). Cornered: An approach to school bullying, cyberbullying, and forensic implications. Child &  Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20, p. 447-465.

5. Crosslin, K.L., & Crosslin, M.B. (2012). College students and victimization experiences. Unpublished raw data.

6. Hinduja, S.H., & Patchin, J.W. (2009). Safe and responsible social networking. Retrieved on October 21, 2012, from

Dr. Katie Crosslin is an Assistant Professor for Texas Woman's University's Department of Health Studies. Her research interests include violence prevention, acculturation in Hispanics and effects on health, medically underserved populations, and chronic diseases and quality of life.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sweets for the Sweet! (With a Little Moderation...)

That notorious candy celebrating holiday is right around the corner! Most of us have some kind of weak spot  for a sugary sweet treat, and we have been warned for years that too much candy will rot our teeth out. So, just how bad for us is sugar? Do we have to avoid it entirely? (Is that even possible?!?)

Research has suggested that possibly our craving for sweets (and fats) goes back through our evolutionary history to times when food was more difficult to come by, and when more calories were needed just for survival. Our bodies began to seek out the foods that provided the most calories, and some researchers theorize that even though we no longer need this survival response, it is still there in our bodies and we still crave sweetness. However, WebMD suggests that while your friend may insist that she cannot go without her 3:00 p.m. candy bar treat, it is still unclear whether sugar is actually addictive. Since in healthy individuals no physical withdrawal symptoms are experienced when sugar intake is halted, it is more likely that sugar is more of a habit or psychologically motivated dependence (

While excessive sugar consumption may not be a true addiction or actually cause particular diseases, it can lead to obesity in both children and adults. Childhood obesity in particular is becoming a serious concern in the United States. Complications of obesity can include heart disease, diabetes, breathing problems, joint problems, and liver and gallbladder disease, as well as psychological and social problems. Additionally, individuals who are obese as children are more likely to be obese adults, and their level of obesity in adulthood could be more severe (

Because of the variety of different serious health conditions that can be caused by obesity, the problem has gained a lot of attention in the United States. Some of the focus has been on soda and candy machines in schools, but in reality much of the food we consume on a daily basis has added processed sugars of which we aren't even aware. Because much of this sugar is hidden in foods that we wouldn't normally associate with being sweet, it is easy to consume substantially more sugar than we are aware of eating. A report in 2009 determined that Americans consume an average of 355 calories a day in sugar - over 20 teaspoons! This is much higher than the recommended amounts for average-sized women (6.25 teaspoons) and men (9.4 teaspoons) (

To protect our health, we all should consider watching our sugar intake more closely on a daily basis. If we practice healthy eating habits with sweets throughout the year, then we can feel a little better about indulging and enjoying ourselves (within reason!) on fun holidays like Halloween! Do you have any tips or tricks for beating sugar cravings that you would like to share? We would love for you leave a comment with your ideas!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

National Health Education Week - October 15 - 19

October 15th through 19th is National Health Education Week. The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) explains that this celebration has been held the third week of October since 1995 and "focuses national attention on a major public health issue and promotes consumers' understanding of the role of health education in promoting the public's health" (

This year's focus is on the youth of America with the theme "Adolescent Health: Planting Seeds for a Healthier Generation." Each day during the week there is a focus on a different aspect of health:

  • Monday - Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • Tuesday - Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use
  • Wednesday - Sexual Health
  • Thursday - Emerging Trends in Adolescent Injury & Violence
  • Friday - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth

SOPHE will be keeping the public informed through communications during the week on Facebook and Twitter. Check out their Facebook page here: And, participate during the week via Twitter using #NHEW to spread awareness about adolescent health.

In addition to celebrating National Health Education Week, SOPHE will also be honoring health education specialists who are making a difference in adolescent health. 

For more information and ideas about how you can participate during National Health Education Week, check out the SOPHE page full of information and activities here:

What are your ideas on improving adolescent health in America? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month - TWU Pink Promises Walk on the 9th

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, TWU will be hosting it's Pink Promises Breast Cancer Walk on Tuesday, October 9th, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Free T-shirts, pink bandannas and bags with breast cancer information will be available for participants, while supplies last. For more information contact TWU Student Health Services at 940-898-3833.

Additionally, Texas Health Resources will be bringing a mobile mammography unit to the TWU campus Pioneer North parking lot on Thursday, November 1st. Most insurance will be accepted, and it is possible that those who are uninsured may be eligible for a free mammogram. To schedule an appointment or for more information contact Moncrief Cancer Institute at 1-800-405-7739.