About one in 20 kids between 12 and 17 are cyber- bullying themselves, according to a new study from Florida Atlantic University. That is to say they leave themselves anonymous, mean-spirited messages — an emerging for of what the study calls "digital self-harm."

The research was done by Sameer Hinduja, a criminology professor at the university's Cyberbullying Research Center.

"It can be related to, 'cutting,' engaging in self-harm," Morristown child and family psychologist Steven Tobias said. "This is just another form of self-harm. I think actually, it is a extension of other affects of adolescence. It is just a new media for doing this. I think that some kids do it for attention, do it to get sympathy from others. But I also think a significant number of people are doing it because it reflects on how they feel about themselves."

But Tobias said that although self-bullying is controlled by the bullying target, "the problem, obviously, is that this is just going to make them feel worse."

"I think another thing that might be going on here is that this is how people feel that they deserve to be treated," he said. "That they are depressed, if they feel so badly about themselves that in a sense they think that this is right or this is what people are thinking about them or should be thinking about them. And then by posting online, it is just an outward expression, really of how badly they are feeling about themselves."

The survey showed non-heterosexual kids were three  times more likely to cyberbully themselves, and cyberbullying victims were 12 times more likely to engage in self-bullying.

Tobias said he thinks that the problem is growing.

"I am really very worried about this generation of kids. And I think that technology, unfortunately, is contributing significantly to the problems that kids are having," Tobias said. "And I do not think that parents are really taking it seriously enough, that the cell phone is ubiquitous — everybody has one, so it must be okay. And it is not okay. I really think that there is a lot of literature coming out now that shows how smart phones are really causing significant emotional and even academic problems for this generation of kids."

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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