What is Cyberbullying? Break that word down – What is bullying? Do you really know? Most do not. In today’s world the term “bully” is a hot word that is often misused as well as confused with conflict. Conflict is normal and healthy, and children need to learn to navigate conflict without their parents constantly trying to solve their problems for them. On the other hand, “bullying” is an action that is repeated and targeted. Cyberbullying is also repeated and targeted though online and is specific to minors.
What can we do to understand and prevent Cyberbullying? Communication with your child is key. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of talking to your child. A recent Huffington Post article, “Family Dinners May Help Kids Cope with Cyberbullying,” states, “Like victims of face-to-face bullying, kids who experience internet bullying are vulnerable to mental health and substance use problems – but spending more time communicating with their parents may help protect them from these harmful consequences.”
The Huffington Post sites a study conducted by Frank J. Elgar of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in Montreal, in which he and his team anonymously surveyed voluntary data from more than 18,000 teens at 49 schools in Wisconsin. Here are their findings:
- “About one in five students said they had been bullied on the Internet or by text messaging at least once over the past year.
- Cyberbullying was more common for girls than for boys, for kids who had been victims of face-to-face bullying, and for those who themselves had bullied other kids in person.
- Cyberbullying tended to increase as students got older.
- Youngsters who had been cyberbullied were more likely to also report mental health problems like anxiety, self-harm, thoughts of suicide, fighting, vandalism and substance use problems, according to results in JAMA Pediatrics September 1.
- Almost 20 percent of the kids reported an episode of depression, while around five percent reported suicide attempts or misuse of over the counter or prescription drugs.
- Teens who were often cyberbullied were more than twice as likely to have been drunk, fought, vandalized property, or had suicidal thoughts, and were more than four times as likely to have misused drugs than those who were never cyberbullied.
- As the number of weekly family dinners increased, the differences in mental health issues for kids who were or were not cyberbullied decreased.
‘The more contact and communication you have with young people, the more opportunities they have to express problems they have and discuss coping strategies,’ Elgar said. ‘Essentially the relationships between victimization and all other mental health outcomes were lessened with more frequent family dinners.’ ”
Family dinners to us signal a time when you can connect and talk to your child or children without the interruption of phones, computers or other distractions. It is quality time when the events of that day can be discussed and you all check in with each other. It is basic undistracted communication with your child that will allow you into their world and them into yours. Discuss with your child what quality time they enjoy with you and find a way to make it happen. Enjoy it and appreciate it.
While findings and statistics such as the above study are hard to find because cyberbullying is a newer problem, we can do our best to learn from the knowledge at hand and use them as a guide to help us understand the growing problem of cyberbullying and prevent it from happening to our children.
— Mary & Claire
**My Remarkable Self is available to give informational Cyberbullying Workshops for parents, students, educators and businesses. Please contact us for further information.**