How To Protect Tweens From The Stress of Cyberbullying

by Sandi Schwartz

One of the biggest challenges parents currently face is how to manage our children’s access to technology. When they are young, we worry about them spending too much time staring at screens and not getting outside to play.

As they get older, they start asking for their own cell phone, and then the world (the good, the bad, and the ugly) is available right in the palm of their hand. Sadly, the rise in popularity of the internet, smartphones, and text messaging has led to a major bullying problem online, called cyberbullying.

The Scary Statistics

Nearly 43 percent of kids have been bullied online, according to PACER, the organization who developed National Bullying Prevention Month that is held every October to unite communities nationwide to inspire, educate, and raise awareness about bullying prevention. Cyberbullying is now the single largest type of bullying, and 25 percent of kids who have been bullied say they have experienced it more than once.

Cyberbullying typically involves spreading rumors or writing hurtful comments to another person using technology. The spread of technology has made bullying so much easier because it has removed the traditional barriers of time and space between bullies and their victims. They can interact in real-time at any moment throughout the day, whether it be during or after school. The technology to hurt someone is constantly on—available 24/7.

Why are kids being bullied? According to TeenSafe data:

  • 72 percent of children are cyberbullied because of their looks.
  • 26 percent of victims are chosen due to their race or religion.
  • 22 percent of harassed children feel that their sexuality was the cause of the bullying.

Other reasons include weak athletic ability, intelligence level, strong artistic skills, strong morals, refusal to join the crowd, or having a small build (i.e., too short or too thin).

How CyberBullying Causes Stress And Anxiety

Like any traumatic event, cyberbullying can cause immediate and lingering stress and anxiety for the victims. They often are left feeling lonely, isolated, vulnerable, depressed, and anxious. The top four anxiety disorders that victims of bullying can experience include post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and social anxiety disorder.

Educate Your Kids

Our children need our guidance. According to a recent survey, 24 percent of kids and teens report that they do not know what they would do if they were harassed online and 39 percent do not enable their privacy settings on social media.

You don’t have to secretly monitor your child’s online behavior. In fact, you will have more success if you talk to your children about proper digital etiquette and cyberbullying so that they will be comfortable to open up to you if they witness a bully situation. Explain to them that there are boundaries and limitations when using their electronics. If you see a message that looks inappropriate, speak to them about it immediately. Let them know that you are not using parenting controls to invade their privacy. You love them, are on their side, and want to keep them safe. Check out the Parenting Guide To Tech Safety for more tips.

Encourage Them To Take A Stand Against Bullies

The actions of peers are more likely to stop a bully than anything else. Let’s give our children the power to stand up and speak out against bullying. By raising confident, emotionally intelligent, kind kids who have goals and a purpose in life, we are giving them the tools to recognize when a situation just doesn’t feel right.

Originally from the Philadelphia area, Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer/blogger and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. You can find her at www.happysciencemom.com – where this article first appeared – and www.sandischwartz.com.