Statistics have shown that 1 in 4 teens 12-17 yrs old have been cyberbullied. This means there are at least 1 in 4 teens that have been the cause of cyberbullying. This also means that there are at least 1 in 4 teens that have witnessed their friends being cyberbullied. There is a 75% chance that if you have a tween or teenager using a cellphone with texting or a smartphone for social media, they know more about the cruelty of kids and teens than you.
There is also a 90% chance that your child/teen will not share with you that they are worried about their friends and/or dealing with this issue. This is NOT because they are not close with you. Normal adolescent development states that a healthy teenager is branching out and learning about their identity. They want to research and explore on their own as a young adult. Teenagers from good homes want to show their parents they are mature and able to handle “typical teen stuff”. **Note: unfortunately, many teens see cyberbullying as stuff that just happens (take a look at the above mentioned stats).
What are the signs that my child/teen may be facing cyberbullying?
- Changes in Attitude when using their phone or computer. Pay attention to HOW they shut off their phone or computer. Do they quickly turn it off when in the middle of using it? Do they seem nervous about checking their texts or tell you they’ll just check it later if they receive a text in your presence? Do they suddenly have no interest in social media when they used to use it a lot? Are they deleting accts they once had? Or, are they obsessed and want to be on social media much more than usual and seemed hyped up if they can’t use it? Did they appear to jump in social status by adding a large number of friends to their social media sites?
- Avoidance. Don’t be naive to think that one-word responses “good, fine, no” are typical teenage responses to questions. EVEN IN TODAY’S SOCIETY, teenagers WANT a relationship with their parents. They won’t admit it, they won’t show it, but they do. After 18 yrs of working closely with teenagers, they complain the most about not being able to talk to their parents. Please push through your own rejection issues of their attitudes and encourage dialog with your teens. If they state, “people suck”, “I don’t like hanging out with …. anymore, they’re just stupid”, consider these red flags to invade their privacy and find out why.
- Changes in Eating or Sleeping. Too much/not enough eating or sleeping are signs of depression, but also signs of cyberbullying. If they are fidgety or jumpy when you ask what they’re reading, consider that something to look into. If they get frequent headaches or stomachaches and complain about getting sick often, this is a sign of anxiety. When physical symptoms are combined with not wanting to go to school or social events (youth group, sporting events, movies), they may be experiencing cyberbullying.
- Isolation or withdrawing from friends and family in “real life”. A child’s personality is developed by the age of 7 yrs old. If they are naturally an outgoing child or extroverted, their personality has not changed as a teen. However, if they are avoiding people or friends, or seem uninterested in the activities they used to do, something has most likely occurred to keep them from wanting to be themselves. Spending more time on their phones or computers than with speaking with friends in person is a sign of cyberbullying. They may not know who they can trust to be in their circle.
- Decreased self-esteem. If they have suicidal thoughts or depressed thoughts such as, “why would anyone care if I play soccer anymore” or “it’s just not worth it”, “who really cares about me”, then it’s a good time to check their social media and texts.
Where to go for help? If you’re worried about your child and they are not wanting to share with you, it is wise to seek out a counselor. But, not just any counselor. Do your research and look for a therapist who specializes in teenagers. Teenagers, as you know, are difficult to crack the shell on – especially if they are experiencing cyberbullying.
Although your child/teen has a 75% chance of experiencing some form of cyberbullying (victim, witness, or bully), they don’t have to become a statistic. Help arm yourself and your child with tools on how to handle cyberbullying situations.