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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2239-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
MF, ML, and MR contributed to the conception and drafting of the work. MF analyzed the data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. MF, ML, and MR contributed to the interpretation and the discussion of the results, and the revision of the content. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.
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Victimization in cyberspace has emerged as a new public health issue among the young. The main purpose of this study was to analyze associations between cyber victimization defined as cyber harassment (CH) (a somewhat broader concept than cyberbullying) and subjective health complaints (SHC), to study whether these associations were modified by parental/friend support (measured as communication), and to explore the influence of traditional bullying victimization (TBV) on the association between CH and SHC.
The study population consisted of 8544 students in 9th grade (around 15 years old) who participated in the 2012 Scania public health survey of children and adolescents. The survey was a cross-sectional total-population study conducted in school, with a response rate of 83 %.
Main and interaction (stress-buffering) effects of social support on the relationship between CH and SCH were investigated by hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses, adjusted for potential confounders, including TBV.
The past-year prevalence of CH (once or several times) was 14 % among boys and 20 % among girls. Having been cyber harassed once or several times during the past year was associated with higher levels of SHC, controlling for age, parental occupation, parental origin, daily smoking, intense alcohol consumption, and disability. Among both boys and girls, the associations were stronger for CH occurring several times than for CH occurring only once. Main effects of parental/friend support were seen for both boys and girls, while stress-buffering effects were indicated for boys only. Additional analysis further adjusting for TBV did not change the associations substantially, indicating that CH has an effect of its own on SHC.
Intervention programs aimed at improving the quality of peer and family relationships among children and adolescents might reduce the incidence of both cyber harassment and traditional bullying and lower the prevalence of psychosomatic complaints.