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Cyberbullying: Helping Teens Navigate Social Media

October 10, 2019

Growing up with social media has created an entirely new catalyst for adversity in the lives of teenagers today. Over half of adolescents have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying. Since this month is Bullying Prevention Month, we have provided some resources for parents below. 

In a 2018 study of 40,000 children and teens, youth who used screens for more than 7 hours a day were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety or treated by a mental health professional (WebMD, April 10, 2019). Moderate use of screens -- 4 hours a day -- was also associated with lower psychological well-being. A Duke University study published in early 2018 found a link between technology use and increased attention, behavior, and self-regulation problems for teens already at risk for mental health issues. Additionally, the study found that on days when teens device usage increased, they were more likely to have conduct and behavioral problems like lying and fighting.

Why are kids addicted to something that can be the source of so much pain? Sociologist Robert Faris informed us that kids are addicted to the image of themselves that they see reflected in the eyes of their peers. To attain a high status of popularity is to reach ultimate success. To achieve that level frequently comes at the cost of others. 

In Anderson Cooper's documentary "Being 13",, Cooper dives into the adverse effects that social media has on our young people. According to the research, teens check their social media more than 100 times a day while subconsciously looking for the answers to questions such as, “Will people approve of me? Will they think I'm ugly?” Sometimes they are met with positive feedback, but often they are not.  

Cyberbullying is not something that most adults experienced growing up. Therefore, helping kids navigate bullying requires innovation on our part. On Point equips youth with skills to develop healthy relationships by joining the conversations in our programming to cultivate self-respect, creativity, and courage, while also promoting a positive presence online. Social media can be a place for positive social connection and encouragement. If you have the ability to influence youth, join their conversations, have an open dialogue with children, go where they are, and never cease to be a source of encouragement and love. 

How can parents intervene? How can adults innovatively speak into the lives of children and encourage power, creativity, self-respect, strength, and courage? 

  • Understand that all children are susceptible to being bullied or engage in bullying online. 94% of parents underestimate the amount of fighting on social media. 
  • Go where the kids are! Use social media to deepen your relationship with your kids, not create barriers. Sign up for different social media platforms, and even friend request your own children! Making this effort can have a positive impact in supporting healthy digital interactions. 
  • Discuss how kids can reclaim self-respect when bullying or ongoing negative messages have significantly wounded them.
  • Share stories of the people in your life who support you, challenge you, and love you unconditionally. Share the commitment, time, and trust required to develop these relationships.

With the skills to build healthy relationships, kids can find positive support systems that will help them understand who they are, rather than relying on social media to assign their value.