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Social Media and Teens: Cyberbullying

Updated: May 8, 2023

Welcome back to part two of our series, Social Media and Teens. Today, we are exploring cyberbullying. Teens today don’t know a world without the internet, never having existed in a time when communicating online wasn’t an option. They have access to countless forms of digital media whether it’s social networks (Facebook, Instagram), gaming communities (Xbox, Playstation), messenger apps (WhatsApp, Kik Messenger), and countless others. While it is great to have so many options for communication, it can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Bullying certainly isn’t a new concept, but the use of the internet to harass and bully one’s peers is. As a parent, it is important to understand how to protect your teen from cyberbullying, and where to turn to for help.

Social Media and Cyberbullying

Traditional bullying has always taken place through face-to-face contact. Cyberbullying, as the name implies, occurs using digital media and takes place online. While cyberbullying is still not as common as face-to-face bullying, it does happen often, and the effects on teens can be devastating.

Cyberbullies utilize social media to harm their target. They can do this by posting embarrassing pictures of them, spreading rumors or untrue stories, and sometimes even threatening their victim through private messaging. Because of the nature of social media, posts can spread quickly, leading to the victim experiencing hurt and embarrassment. Your teen may not always tell you they are experiencing cyberbullying, so it is important to communicate with your teen and pay attention to changes in their behavior that could indicate they are experiencing cyberbullying.

How can I Help my Teen?

Every teen is different, and not all will show warning signs of cyberbullying, but if your teen is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, they may be experiencing cyberbullying.

  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and regular activity.

  • Displaying emotions of anger or depression after using electronic devices.

  • Hiding online activity or being secretive when using electronic devices.

  • Loss of interest in attending school or social functions.

  • Decrease in self-esteem and difficulty sleeping.

The best thing you can do is discuss the subject of cyberbullying and what to do if it does occur. We also recommend that you encourage your teen to keep an open dialog with you without fear of retaliation. If they feel safe confiding in you, they will be more likely to inform you of the inappropriate behavior they are experiencing online. It is important that neither you nor your teen engage with or threaten the cyberbully. Instead, document the messages and images you find online by taking screenshots. If the cyberbully is a classmate, report the behavior to school officials for action and intervention. In some circumstances, reporting the behavior to your local police department may be warranted. Cyberbullying can be a stressful experience, and we at Children’s Wellness Center take online harassment seriously. If you notice your teen requires additional support, make an appointment with your pediatric provider at Children’s Wellness Center so that we can provide you with additional resources to overcome this incident. For more health tips, follow us on Facebook, and stay tuned for part three of our series, where we explore internet challenges.

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