About one in five school-age kids report being bullied. What’s alarming is that the number is likely even higher because not all cases of bullying are reported. Although traditional forms of bullying persist, the type on the rise is cyberbullying.
Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior. Cyberbullying takes that aggressive behavior and hides it behind a screen. It’s a power play that includes sending mean, derogatory messages, taking and sharing pics to use against another person, and talking about and excluding others in chats.
Cyberbullying affects victims in a number of ways – and the effects can be long-lasting. Although some kids are able to confront the behavior and seek support, there are many who have difficulties coping and may experience depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
With more kids going online and using social media, cyberbullying, unfortunately, isn’t going away. The best thing adults can do is be aware of it and the impact it can have on children. Watch for these warning signs that may indicate cyberbullying:
- Physical manifestations of stress, such as headaches or stomachaches
- Pulling away from family and friends
- Changes in behavior
- Decreasing grades in school
- School refusal
- Avoiding activities that were once enjoyed
If you suspect your child is being cyberbullied, keep the lines of communication open. Make a regular time to sit and chat with your kids about what’s going on in their lives, who their friends are and if they have any concerns or things they are worried about. If they aren’t comfortable opening up to you, help them find someone else in your family or community who can provide that safe space for them.
Another thing you can do is help your child feel empowered. Help them find tools to deal with the situation they are experiencing. For example, it may be helpful to stay away from the person who is bullying them. You can also encourage your child to stand up to the bully and take control of the situation.
But what if you discover your child is the one doing the bullying? Take it seriously and teach your child about the impact his or her behavior has on the other person. Make sure they understand there will be consequences for their actions and follow through with any established consequences.
Linden Oaks Behavioral Health has inpatient and outpatient individual and group therapy options available to help kids and teens in need of help dealing with cyberbullying. We can also provide referrals to resources in the community available to help. Therapists on the Behavioral Health Integration Team are embedded in our primary care facilities to provide an instant, seamless connection to connect kids with the help they need.
You can also find out ways to set your kids up for safety and success when using social media. Tune in to a recent Health 360 podcast episode – Social media and kids: what’s healthy, what’s harmful? – featuring Dr. G and his guests, Steven Kovar, MD, and Meghan Kennedy, PsyD.