Back-to-school Guide to Prevent Cyberbullying
July 28, 2011
A child’s home is no longer a safe refuge from schoolyard or neighborhood bullies. As technology continues to develop and progress, so have the ways kids can fall victim to bullying. Bullying has found new life in the realms of cyberspace. Typically, cyberbullying takes the form of one or more teens taunting or spreading rumors about a peer online.
There are no off-hours for cyberbullies — kids can now be bullied anytime, anywhere. As the accessibility of the Internet and the popularity of social media continue to increase, so have the incidents of cyberbullying. According to i-SAFE Inc., one in three young people have experienced “cyberthreats” online, and it’s estimated that more than 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been repeatedly bullied through the Internet or their cell phones.
“Victims of cyberbullying can experience the same effects as those bullied in person. These effects include low self-image, depression, anger, school failure and avoidance, and in some cases, school violence and even suicide,” said Chip Coffey, director, Outpatient Services, for St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center. “However, what people may not realize is that the negative effects can be magnified because cyberbullying is a much more public form of humiliation with a potentially unlimited audience.”
It’s estimated that up to 160,000 kids may miss school each day for fear of being embarrassed, bullied or both, according to the National Education Association. So, as kids throughout Arizona head back to school, the mental health professionals at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center offer the following tips to protect your kids against cyberbullying:
- Talk to your children about cyberbullying. Educate them on the serious consequences that it can have on the bully and the victim.
- Search for your child’s name on the Internet to see if he or she is being bullied online. You can also set up Google Alerts in your child’s name so that any mentions will be emailed to you directly.
- Keep your home computer in an open place, such as the kitchen or den, so you easily see what your kids are viewing online.
- Install an Internet filter and monitor your child’s use of social media websites. Ask your child to provide you with all of their online account user names and passwords, and let them know that you will check their accounts on occasion for their protection.
- Encourage teens to notify an adult if any case of cyberbullying is occurring. If they are victims of cyberbullying, reassure them that being bullied is not their fault.
- Inform you child that if they are being cyberbullied or are receiving “cyberthreats”, then they should keep the messages as proof that the bullying is occurring. As the parent, you can provide the messages as evidence to the proper authorities — especially if the messages are threatening in nature.
- Encourage your child to have times throughout the day and night in which they turn off all technology.
“If your teen begins to act in a way that is inconsistent with their usual behavior when it comes to using communication devices, then it is time to find out why,” said Coffey. “This could be a sign that they are a victim of cyberbullying, or are bullying others.”
If your child is suffering from depression lasting more than two weeks as a result of cyberbullying or any other crime, seek professional help immediately. Facilities like St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center offer evaluations for people experiencing any type of mental health or substance abuse issue. Call 602-251-8535 in the metro Phoenix area or toll-free at 1-800-821-4193 to schedule an assessment.
St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center is a 124-bed mental and behavioral health facility located on the campus of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix. For more than 40 years, St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center has been serving the mental health and substance abuse needs of the community with a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for children, teens, adults and seniors. For more information, visit stlukesbehavioralhealth.com.