Social media and video gaming has seen rapid growth in recent years. With children and adolescents frequenting online communities, this opens the door to cyber bullying and puts our children’s emotional well-being at risk. Children who experience cyber bullying are more likely to show signs of loneliness and social isolation. With prolonged exposure, they can experience lowered self-esteem and depression.
“Our children are facing new and complicated social situations online,” said Autumn Dunham Neubert, LCSW, at Memorial Behavioral Health—Springfield Children’s Center. “Unfortunately, the repercussions can be devastating to their feelings of worth, especially in the preteen and teenage years.”
Cyber bullying can include harassment—insulting or threatening messages or memes; flaming—sending angry or rude messages; or revealing personal information told in confidence. Social media enables cyber bullies to have access to their victims 24 hours a day. This constant exposure can make the emotional risks more severe.
Tips for parents:
• Look for changes in behavior. Are they eating less or more? Are they sleeping less or more?
• Look for school avoidance or a drop in academic achievement. Most cyber bullies are people your children already know and encounter in-person at school.
• Look for physical complaints. Are they reporting more headaches, stomachaches and/or sleeplessness?
• Ask them about their experiences online with bullies. Open discussion enables children to feel more confident to handle adversity.
• Be willing to advocate to school administrators on your child’s behalf.
• Start an anti-bullying task force or join an anti-bullying campaign online.
• Monitor their online activity and help them problem solve about difficult online situations.
• Don’t overreact by restricting all online privileges.
• Block threatening peers or users.
• Report bad behavior to social media administrators to help foster safe online spaces.
• Set up privacy controls and turn off location settings.
• Delete derogatory comments or content.
• Take a social media hiatus or break.
• Set time limits on internet usage.
Most importantly, seek help for your child if you notice behavior changes. Don’t let them suffer in silence if your child shows signs of cyber bullying. Take a free, confidential online assessment for depression and anxiety or call Memorial Behavioral Health at 217-757-7700.Enjoy LiveWell Online Magazine? Stay up-to-date with a free email subscription!