Problematic Social Media Use and Conflict, Social Stress, and Cyber-Victimization Among Early Adolescents

Shongha Kim, Rachel Garthe, Wan Jung Hsieh, Jun Sung Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An alarming number of early adolescents between the ages of 11 and 14 report experiencing cyber-victimization (i.e., bullying that occurs online or via technology). Although research has demonstrated that spending more time on social media can increase the likelihood of cyber-victimization, less research has examined how adolescents are using social media. For example, the conflicts and problems that can arise from social media use may also increase vulnerability to cyber-victimization. The current study examined this association between problematic social media use and conflict (PSMUC) and cyber-victimization among a sample of early adolescents. Also, guided by the Social Information Processing model, the current study examined the indirect effect of social stress (i.e., feelings of isolation and social exclusion) in the association between PSMUC and cyber-victimization. Adolescents (N = 316) participated during the spring of sixth grade from a large public middle school in the Midwestern United States. Assessments included measures of PSMUC, cyber-victimization, and social stress. Using structural equation modeling, results indicated that PSMUC was associated with higher levels of cyber-victimization via higher levels of social stress. These findings indicate that social stress is an important mechanism to consider in the relationship between PSMUC and cyber-victimization experiences among early adolescents. Implications for prevention and intervention programs, as well as future research directions, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-233
Number of pages11
JournalChild and Adolescent Social Work Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2022.


  • Cyber-victimization
  • Early Adolescence
  • Problematic social media use and conflict
  • Social stress


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