What is Cyber Bullying

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Cyber Bullying

The Age of Cyberbullying, and What You Can Do

The world is a lot different from the way it was 10 years ago, let alone 20 to 30 years ago. How we work, learn, and communicate has shifted dramatically over the last few decades. That goes for everyone, from those operating a Fortune 500 company to those still pursuing an education.

For young people, specifically teens, the digital age of electronics and computers hasn’t come without its challenges. If you’re a parent or caregiver, one challenge in particular should be identified and addressed as soon as possible: Cyberbullying.

Nowadays, just because your teen doesn’t face to face with someone doesn’t mean they can’t be bullied. Even when your teen leaves the confines of their learning environment or a social gathering, the risk of being bullied is still there due to widespread digital access.

Since cyberbullying can be harmful to your teen’s mental health, knowing how to address the situation is crucial. Your teen deserves to feel comfortable and safe in the digital world, and there are things you can do to help.

What Is Cyberbullying?

According to StopBullying.gov, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.”

Bullying, by definition, is unwanted aggressive behavior and a person feeling like they have power or control over another person. At present, cyberbullying is commonly found through:

  • TikTok
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • Instagram
  • Email
  • Text messaging
  • Instant messaging and messaging apps
  • Online chatrooms and forums
  • Online gaming

What makes cyberbullying so dangerous is that it’s a wheel that seemingly never stops turning. Most people have digital access 24/7, which means your teen could be at risk of being cyberbullied without a lot of relief.

It can also be difficult for you as a parent or caregiver to monitor any cyberbullying since it’s all occurring digitally. StopBullying.gov also mentions that all states now have laws in place to respond to cyberbullying.

How Common Is Cyberbullying?

Anyone can be cyberbullied, but for young people, it’s an issue that is far too common.

In fact, around 15% of students in the United States ages 12-18 reported being cyberbullied during the school year, according to reports dating back to 2017.

According to that same report, there were many ways teens were bullied. While these actions don’t necessarily pertain to just cyberbullying, some of these actions can be done digitally:

  • Rumors and lies
  • Being pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on
  • Being called names
  • Being left out
  • Being threatened
  • Peer pressure
  • Destruction of property

Another thing about cyberbullying is that it’s so widespread, anyone can be bullied and/or become the bully.

StopBullying.gov explains, “There is not a single profile of a young person involved in bullying. Youth who bully can be either well connected socially or marginalized and may be bullied by others as well. Similarly, those who are bullied sometimes bully others.”

No matter what, your teen should not have to endure the stresses of being cyberbullied.

How to Address Cyberbullying as a Parent/Caregiver

As a parent or caregiver, you may feel angry, sad, or both if your teen is being cyberbullied. However, you should know there are appropriate steps you can take to address the issue.

One of the first steps when it comes to intervening is to do it immediately. As soon as you realize your teen is being cyberbullied, do not hesitate to ask another adult for help. It’s also important to make sure there is a separation of the teens involved so cyberbullying can come to an immediate halt.

According to StopBullying.gov, you should also make sure everyone involved is safe, and model respective behavior when you intervene. And if your teen is in need of any physical or mental health treatment as a result of cyberbullying, do not hesitate to seek help.

Whatever you do, do not ignore cyberbullying as it can take its toll on your teen’s health.

You’ll want to avoid talking to the teens involved at the same time; try to only do it separately. Also, if possible, do not intervene in front of other teens, and refrain from making the teens involved apologize or come to a middle ground on the spot.

If the cyberbullying is being done by a fellow student, you should contact the school, teacher, principal, superintendent, or state department of education.

Lastly, seek medical attention or call 911 if a weapon is involved, if there are threats of physical injury, hate-motivated violence, accusations of illegal acts, or serious bodily harm.

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Here’s What Your Teen Can Do

If your teen is being cyberbullied, the first thing they should do is speak up. By telling a trusted adult, they can help put an end to the issue.

Remind your teen that it’s OK to reach out for help, and there is no shame in doing so. From time to time, we all need help addressing an issue. It doesn’t make you any less “cool” or “tough” to ask for help.

Also, it’s important for you as a parent/caregiver to go over the signs of bullying with your teen. Those signs are mentioned earlier in this blog post. If they do notice any of those signs, they should remain calm, respectful, and tell an adult as soon as possible.

If they are having thoughts of harming themselves as a result of cyberbullying, seek medical attention immediately.

Can Cyberbullying Affect My Teen’s Mental Health?

The answer to this question is: Yes, being cyberbullied can certainly affect your teen’s mental health. This includes things like depression and anxiety.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), “Depression is a serious medical illness. It’s more than just a feeling of being sad or ‘blue’ for a few days. If you are one of the more than 19 million teens and adults in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life.”

Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling sad
  • Overeating or not eating
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling tired
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Thoughts of harming oneself
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Digestive problems

The NLM defines anxiety as ”a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress.”

If your teen is experiencing either depression or anxiety, seeking professional treatment can help.

Treating Depression and Anxiety

It’s important to remember, for both you and your teen, that what they’re feeling is valid. Although they may be dealing with cyberbullying and consequently depression and/or anxiety, things can get better. There are solutions.

Depression is typically treated through therapy, medication, or both.

In cases of moderate to severe depression, it may be recommended that your teen receive therapy and medication. However, everyone is unique, and that will be considered.

Therapy is an excellent way to treat depression. It can help your teen learn how to deal with depression in a healthy way, and it can help them change thought patterns that could be holding them back or impacting their depression.

Medications may also be prescribed to help your teen address their depression. These medications are known as antidepressants. It’s important to remember to not give up on the medication right away as it may take some time to work. Remember, since it can be very dangerous, your teen should not stop taking the medication without first consulting with their doctor.

By seeking treatment at an earlier age, your teen can help prevent depression from growing worse as they get older. Developing coping mechanisms and depression management skills is important because even in adulthood, depression is common.

As for anxiety, therapy can also help your teen discover psychological issues that are affecting their mental health. Similar to depression, medications may also be prescribed. In some cases, both therapy and medication may be recommended to combat symptoms of anxiety.

Remind your teen they’re not alone. Millions of people across the country have dealt with some form of bullying, and they are battling depression and/or anxiety. The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and these issues can be addressed.

Is Now the Time to Seek Treatment?

Your teen deserves to feel a sense of belonging and purpose. If they are constantly struggling with their mental health and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, and they are not getting better, seeking treatment can help them learn how to manage those feelings. And the earlier they learn how to combat depression and/or anxiety, the better.

When you’re a teenager, it’s easy to believe that what’s currently going on in your life will last forever. But things are temporary. There’s a solution to everything.

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Addressing Your Teen’s Mental Health

SUN Behavioral Columbus offers evidence-based adolescent therapy treatments to help with mental health and mood disorders.

Adolescent therapy is defined as identifying psychological issues that impact mental health and emotional distress. Once your teen’s individual needs have been determined, a teen counselor will work with them to identify healthy ways of dealing with and managing depression and/or anxiety.

The combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy may be used to help make managing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety much easier.

SUN Behavioral Columbus’ staff of psychiatrists and trauma-informed professionals are here to make sure your teen is receiving the care they need throughout the treatment process.

Here at SUN Behavioral Columbus, we believe in empowering our patients to be the expert in their life. This includes being able to identify their needs and learning how to overcome obstacles. To learn more about how we can help, call (614) 706-2786.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best example of cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying typically occurs in the digital world. It is defined by StopBullying.gov, which is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content.” For example, someone who is being cyberbullied might receive degrading text or instant messages, or they may see negative posts about themselves on social media. Anyone can be cyberbullied. Even the individual cyberbullying may be enduring the same issue.

What is the purpose of cyberbullying?

There isn’t one specific reason why someone cyberbullies. It could be because they believe they’ll be seen as “cool” if they do it, or they might want to feel a sense of power over someone else. Since many cyberbullies are bullied themselves, it may be seen as a way for them to cope. Cyberbullying also gives them the opportunity to bully without actually doing it face to face, potentially making them more comfortable doing so.

What are two definitions of cyberbullying?

As stated by StopBullying.gov, cyberbullying can be defined as “bullying that includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.” Cyberbullying can also be defined as bullying that takes place in the digital world. This includes being bullied on social media platforms, through text messages, messaging apps, and more.

Can cyberbullying affect mental health?

Cyberbullying can impact a teen’s mental health. Depression and anxiety are common mental health disorders found in teens. You can find symptoms of both mentioned earlier in this blog post. While cyberbullying can affect your teen’s mental health, there are ways to combat symptoms of depression and anxiety through therapy and, if needed, medication.