about 15 percent of high school students in the last year. It's so prevalent
that the Centers for Disease Control calls it a public health issue.
Occurring over email,
text, or social media, cyberbullying is a form of aggression. It’s used to
embarrass, humiliate, or cause psychological distress to a peer.
physical and behavioral health issues, such as depression, thoughts of suicide, and
substance abuse. It even causes somatic symptoms, which are physical
feelings of pain or fatigue without a physical cause. Victims and
witnesses of bullying may experience feelings of trauma and have difficulty sleeping, abdominal pain, and frequent headaches.
Children who engage in bullying are also experiencing complex feelings.
"Often times the bullies are dealing with a myriad of troubles including low esteem, mental health concerns, or abuse," said Hollie Gonzalez, LMHC, NCC, CCM. "Addressing cyberbullying with compassion and treatment when necessary may promote healing and empathy, and hopefully result in a more positive uplifting cyber culture."
Your health plan offers coverage for mental health. Treatment can help strengthen confidence and give tools for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. Parents also have a role in reducing children’s chances of getting involved in bullying.
"We can’t shelter our kids from cyberspace and all that
entails," Gonzalez said. "At some point in time they’re going to be impacted. I think it’s
important to take a proactive stance in keeping the communication lines open
with children and teens, incorporating these topics into routine conversation at an
early age, emphasizing compassion, empathy, and doing the right thing."
collaboratively work with their teen to safely navigate the internet. Including children in conversations about internet rules can help increase their trust. Studies
show this approach is effective to protect against cyberbullying. Implementing
restrictions without their children’s input isn’t as successful.
Experts recommend that parents:
- Set clear
expectations for online behavior.
acceptable or unacceptable websites to visit and time limits.
- Talk to
teens how to treat others online.
anonymity and privacy online. Reinforce that your child should never share
personal information (passwords, home address).
"Many kids (both victims and perpetrators) are reluctant to
share cyberbullying experiences with parents due to shame, embarrassment, fear
of consequences," Gonzalez said. "I think it’s important to encourage them to talk to
someone–even if it’s not you. Most schools have peer groups, mentors,
or anti-bullying campaigns. Since adolescents tend to accept
information/support from peers more readily than from those recognized as
authority figures, encouraging this type of positive peer pressure to encourage
and uplift others can go a long way."
Teens are skilled at keeping digital activities private. This makes parental monitoring difficult. Also, parents underestimate the amount
of time teens spend online and the number of negative interactions they have. But teens still look to parents for guidance.
"Don’t forget the impact of role-modeling," Gonzalez said. Our kids may
act like we’re the most
out of touch people in the world. However studies show they are still looking
to us to learn about life, relationships, communication, and values. How
we talk to family and friends, use the internet, respond to text messaging–it’s all so important–and they are paying attention."
If you or your child has been bullied, tools are available to
help at stopbullying.gov.