The latest study from Pew Research found nearly half of all U.S. teens say they’ve been bullied or harassed online. Cyberbullying can take many forms, including physical threats, spreading rumors, and receiving nasty images or comments. The most common form is name-calling, and 32% of teens report they have been called an offensive name online.
CBS News Colorado’s Mekialaya White sought out advice from an expert, Dr. Patricia Westmoreland.
Westmoreland is a psychiatrist from the HealthONE Behavioral Health and Wellness Center in Aurora.
“Cyberbullying, although we very fortunately are connected in this social media age, that connection doesn’t stop when you go home from school,” said Westmoreland. “The connection is there forever and the words that are printed there are there forever. And even if your parents take your phone away, kids will still hear from others at school how they’ve been bullied.”
Westmoreland says there are tactics when it comes to talking with your children about cyberbullying.
“It is important to be present in the lives of your children,” she said. “To know who their friends are, talk to them when you fetch them and drop them off at school. To keep an eye on what they’re doing online as best you can. And that may not be as easy as one might think. But being aware of what’s going on, being aware of changes in their mood, their eating habits, changes in their friends. And then asking further questions.”
She adds that discussing cyberbullying is different for every age group: “Make children aware of what it means to say bad things about other people especially if you do it in a printed or digital form. And make sure they know these things have lasting consequences. For example, sending naked pictures can be very serious. Not frightening your children but making them aware that they have consequences. And if they’re being bullied or tempted to get involved with bullying others, there are differences but ways of talking about it without being mean.”
And if your child is doing the bullying, it must be stopped as well: “Really sitting down with your child and going through what happened and why it happened and why you felt necessary to bully someone in that way. And be aware that they themselves may be struggling. Often, people who bully are struggling themselves so get help.”
For more resources on how to tackle the topic, visit https://healthonecares.com/specialties/behavioral-health/