Students are back in class and many districts are now back to in-person learning after more than a year of online instruction.
As we start fresh, it’s important to be mindful of what teens experienced last year from a social-emotional development perspective. Studies now show there was a drastic increase of cyberbullying cases in 2020 as face-to-face interaction stopped, and all communication moved to social media, emails, online chat, and virtual classrooms.
This is why we wanted to take a moment and talk about cyberbullying, its impact on your teen’s wellness, and share five warning signs to help you stop a cyberbully as soon as possible.
The Cyberbullying Research Center defines cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.”
- Willful: The behavior has to be deliberate, not accidental.
- Repeated: Bullying reflects a pattern of behavior, not just one isolated incident.
- Harm: The target must perceive that harm was inflicted.
- Computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices: This, of course, is what differentiates cyberbullying from traditional bullying
5 Cyberbullying Warning Signs
Decrease in Device Usage
One of the most common indicators of cyberbullying is an unexpected drop in device usage. If your teen suddenly seems disinterested in his or her phone, computer, or gaming system, it’s likely they’re being harrassed. Also, teens may want to completely unplug their phone or devices when at home.
Sudden Withdrawal from Social Media
Sometimes, bullied teens withdraw from social media entirely. A withdrawal can include a drop in device usage (as described above) to deleting Facebook or Instagram profiles. Parents should be aware of all of their teenager’s social accounts. You can watch for any sudden inactivity.
Reluctance for Activities
Does your teen seem hesitant to go to school or leave home? Is he or she avoiding interactions with their friends or classmates? Showing a sudden lack of interest in activities they usually enjoy?
Frustration and sadness often indicate an online attack. That’s especially true if it’s directed towards devices. Often, bullied students show signs of depression and anxiety. Other emotional changes include sudden anger and lashing out. These can be a result of fear and a feeling of being trapped.
Unwillingness to Communicate
Teens who are cyberbullied can be jumpy and unwilling to speak to a parent or teacher. This may be especially true when it comes to talking about social media. Often, they fear an adult’s response, or the potential of creating a more complicated situation.
Be Observant, Set Boundaries
Being observant is the most important thing you can do to stop a cyberbully quickly. It’s also a good idea to set device and social media boundaries, so you can stay vigilant. Set terms, together with your teenager, for the following:
- What hours of the day they can be on their phone or device.
- Periodic check-in’s on their social media accounts.
- Social media or social platforms they are allowed to use.
Cyberbullying.org is an excellent resource for parents looking for help with a cyberbullying situation.
Cyberbullying is a real danger to your teens health, wellness, and social-emotional development. Cyberbullying can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. So do not wait to reach out. Our office can assist your teenager in their mental wellness journey and offer resources to help your family.
If you liked this Thrive Pediatrics blog, check out these other related articles:
–The 3 Most Common Mental Health Diagnoses in Teenagers
–Your Guide to Thrive Pediatrics Telehealth Visits