Are you concerned about the amount of time your teen is spending on social media?
Well, you should be… this European study revealed that teens who spend longer than two hours per day on social media are at an increased risk for cyber-bullying. Although this study was not conducted in the United States, the study’s association of the time using social media with the risk of cyber-bullying is concerning for sure. If you are the parent of a teen, please keep reading.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is commonly defined as an intentional act that is carried out by using electronic forms of contact repeatedly against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself. It is different than traditional bullying because victims can be bullied at any time of day or night, and they typically don’t know who the perpetrator is.
Kids and teens are involved in different social media platforms, apps, and programs that make them more vulnerable to cyberbullying. Examples of these platforms are: Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, WhatsApp, Twitter, Whisper, and YouTube among others. Some apps are anonymous or enable messages to disappear after a period of time, but the recipient of the image can take a screenshot of it and make it public later. Teens can also be exposed to cyberbullying through text messaging, email, and interactive video games.
Some examples of cyberbullying are:
- Inventing untrue stories about someone and spreading the rumor via social media.
- Deliberately excluding a person from an activity or party and then tagging him or her in the posted pictures on social media.
- Sending text messages to all the classmates instigating to ignore a particular person.
- Creating a social media profile with the victims name and picture to post personal or privileged information.
- Leaving negative comments on other peoples photos or posts on social media using the fake profile mentioned above, so that all reactions and bad consequences are directed towards the victim.
- Sending cruel messages to someone via social media, text, or chat.
- Sending an image or picture (real or photo-shopped) that could be personal or embarrassing and harm someone’s reputation via social media or any other electronic form of contact.
- Accessing the victim’s email or private messages on social media and forwarding them to a group of people with the purpose of humiliating the victim
Is cyberbullying dangerous?
Yes, it is.
Victims of cyberbullying are more likely to report lower grades and other academic problems as a result of the experience. It is not a surprise that cyberbullying can cause negative social, academic, and health consequences. Victims frequently experience higher levels of depression and low self-esteem, and they are at a higher risk of both suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. It has also been reported that cyberbullying increases a child’s risk for anxiety and sleep problems. It could also increase the likelihood of substance abuse later in life.
What can you do to prevent cyberbullying?
Nowadays information can spread very rapidly (virally) online, exposing information like pictures and text messages, which could be devastating for the person being bullied.
Parents can play an important role in the prevention of cyberbullying by educating their teens about appropriate online behavior. Discuss with your teen what information is not to be shared online. Talk to your teen about your concerns about online privacy, and make sure they understand that any content that they choose to post on any site or app has the potential to become public and go viral. Most teens believe that their pictures and texts uploaded to social media will go away but that’s not the reality. Removal of such content may be difficult or impossible later. Also, talk to your teen about the danger of online relationships with total strangers.
It is a fact that the use of social media will continue to grow among adolescents, especially because of the recent increase in mobile phone use, and as well as increase access to electronics among this age group. So, it is very important that parents continue to stay involved in their teens lives and keep having conversations with them about all the risks they can face while using social media. Remember that most teens will not forward any information unless you specifically ask. The fact that it’s not being mentioned does not mean it’s not happening.
Follow your teen on social media. Be aware of what content they are posting and who their followers/friends are in the different platforms they may be participating in. Teens don’t like intrusion, especially during late adolescence; however, parents should delineate specific rules about social media use in the household.
Families can develop a family media plan using this resource: http://www.healthychildren.org/MediaUsePlan
Disclaimer: The content in this blog is not to be considered medical advice and it is not intended to replace the relationship you have with your primary care provider. If you have specific questions, please contact your physician.