Cyberbullying and Internet addiction among gifted adolescents

With the development of new technologies and digital forms of communication two new phenomena have begun to worry the scientific community: cyberbullying and internet addiction in youth.

Online sites, where anonymity is easily preserved, has generated a space that hinders the detection and the control of harassment. Currently, there is an ongoing debate within the scientific community on a possible population that might be especially vulnerable to cyberbullying; this is the case of gifted children. Some authors defend that this population has an increased vulnerability to suffer from it as victims, other researches argue instead that the might have a particular tendency to carry it out in the role of aggressors, others say that the prevalence of cyberbullying among gifted adolescents, likewise as for victims or aggressors, is equivalent as the one for general adolescent population.

Regarding Internet addiction, until recently there were no studies that directly analyzed its relation with giftedness. Nevertheless, among scientific literature one could find papers that suggested that gifted children could have behavioral traits that, in case that these came together with social adjustment problems, could facilitate the development of Internet addiction in adolescence. On the other hand, other studies seemed to point that intelligence could act as a protective factor towards this addictive behavior.

An article, recently published by members of I+DEL, has shed some light on this debate. In their study they analyzed in a sample of 122 adolescents, half of them with gifted intelligence, the incidence of cyberbullying experiences -both as victims or aggressors-, the incidence of Internet addiction and the interaction between these two phenomena. Their results suggest that there is no difference in terms of cyberbullying nor Internet addiction incidence between gifted adolescents and their peers. However, what they did find, was that Internet addiction, when linked to interpersonal conflicts (lack of social skills), played an important explanatory part in the apparition of cyberbullying situations, especially among gifted adolescents.