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Doctors should be part of societal war against cyberbullying

Medical professionals can play an important role in the war against cyberbullying, writes Dr. Matthew Stanbrook in an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Canada’s federal government has proposed a new law to combat cyberbullying that will prohibit the transmission of “intimate images” of a person without his or her consent and allow courts to seize devices used as tools in cyberbullying. Government legislation, combined with the efforts of parents, doctors and schools, can have impact on curbing the problem.

“Health professionals, in whom youth may be more willing to confide than in teachers or parents, have an important role to play in identifying whether cyberbullying is occurring,” writes Dr. Stanbrook, deputy editor, CMAJ. “Onset of new behavioural or mental health problems, psychosomatic symptoms, or a decline in school performance should prompt questioning about bullying, including cyberbullying.”

Doctors should then screen for conditions related to bullying, such as depression and suicidal thoughts, and seek to treat these mental health issues.

“Whatever form it takes, bullying is unhealthy for victims, perpetrators and society. Modernizing our laws to incorporate cyberbullying explicitly is a positive step to improve health and one that the medical profession should support.”


Stopping cyberbullying requires a combined societal effort, Matthew B. Stanbrook MD PhD, CMAJ, DOI:10.1503/cmaj.140299, published 24 March 2014.