Parents, it's time to attack cyberbullying

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Cyberbullying affected about 15 percent of high school students in the last year. It is 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. 

Cyberbullying causes physical and mental health problems. Depression, thoughts of suicide, and substance abuse are common. It even causes somatic symptoms, which are physical feelings of pain or fatigue without a physical cause.

Bullied teens are likely to have trouble sleeping, abdominal pain and frequent headaches. Victims and witnesses may experience feelings of trauma.

Parents have a role in reducing children’s chances of getting involved in bullying. Parents can collaboratively work with their teen to safely navigate the internet. Studies show this approach is effective to protect against cyberbullying than. Implementing restrictions without their children’s input isn’t as successful.

Experts recommend that parents:

  • Set clear expectations for online behavior.
  • Discuss acceptable or unacceptable websites to visit and time limits.
  • Talk to teens how to treat others online.
  • Discuss anonymity and privacy online. Reinforce that your child should never share personal information (passwords, home address).

Children say they don’t tell parents about cyberbullying because they fear losing internet privileges. Including children in conversations about internet rules can help increase their trust.

Teens are skilled at protecting privacy of electronic communication. This makes parental intervention difficult. Also, parents underestimate the amount of time teens spend online and the number of negative interactions. 

Parents were best able to identify threatening social media posts with the assistance of their teens, according to a study. Parents who collaborate with their adolescent understand what is threatening online. They are better equipped to protect them.

If you or your child has been bullied, tools are available to help.

Your health plan offers coverage for mental health. It can help strengthen confidence and give tools for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.