In a previous blog post we looked at how peer pressure can have a negative impact on teenagers as well as its influence on their thinking, actions and decisions.
In this article we will look at cyberbullying, another form of negative peer pressure which has quickly emerged in the last few years as a major factor in instances of depression and suicide not only in teens but also in young adults.
The reach of social platforms is extensive.
Cyberbullying is a form of peer abuse which takes places in the virtual space. And because it can happen via chat, on forums, through blogs and websites, social sites, email, or phone messages, addressing the issue can be difficult for parents.
Cyberbullies Enjoy Virtual Anonymity
The bigger danger with cyberbullying is that unlike traditional bullying, where the aggressor’s identity is easy to establish, cyberbullies can hide behind the wall of anonymity and continue to attack the victim in a relentless manner.
They often use fake profiles, avatars, and a variety of screen names when attacking their targets. Targeting can happen through a text-war or abusive comments, name-calling, or victim shaming through pictures (often morphed), misinformation or deliberate spread of false information and rumors.
Dangers of Cyberbullying on Young Lives
The reason why cyberbullying is so dangerous is because of the negative impact it can have on the lives of teens and young adults. It not only affects their social relationships, but it can lead to self-esteem issues, or in extreme cases even lead to a self-harming behavior well into adulthood.
It is vital to note that cyberbullying is not limited to teenagers. College students, and young adults, face cyberbullying either at the college level or even in their workplace.
Social penetration is pervasive and any kind of content, or online activity which has a resonating value among a group, will get amplified.
The effects of such actions or activity on a teenager or young adult can be crippling. Here are some of the challenges and dangers of cyberbullying:
- Tracking online bullying is difficult for both parents, guardians, and teachers since the bullying happens over platforms and through mediums they may not be privy to.
- Cyberbullying can lead to increased levels of depression and anxiety among teens.
- It could also lead to the teen harboring suicidal tendencies.
- Just as in the case with traditional bullying, cyberbullying can impact school life and academics.
- The feeling of vulnerability and the shaming that the victims of cyberbullying must endure can continue well into their adulthood since in most cases, the information stays online even if the immediate harmful content is deleted.
- The victim could develop a fear of any online threats becoming a reality which could lead them withdrawing away from family and friends. It can shatter their confidence in this world which correlates with a lessoning of their quality of life.
- Since most teens and young adults spend a lot of time online, they might feel helpless and get trapped into a state of constant victimhood thinking they can’t escape cyberbullying.
Preventing Cyberbullying – The Role of Parents and Guardians
Open communication is the most important aspect of preventing cyberbullying whether it happens at school or in the workplace from impacting the life of teens and young adults, respectively.
Talk to your children when they are of school-age and tell them why cyberbullying is not acceptable in any form. It is a reality to anyone interacting in the virtual world and it is best to learn about early on.
However, students and young professionals can do a lot to prevent cyberbullying from happening in the first place. Simple preventive steps include:
- Never share passwords and exchange personal information online.
- Don’t share pictures with strangers or people you are not very familiar with.
- Talk to a parent or teacher/guardian about being a victim of cyberbullying.
- Be clear that they will not be punished (blocking their internet access) if they come to you about being bullied or targeted online – it is important that your child knows you will not judge them.
- If your child is in college and you suspect, they are a victim of this form of bullying, try to talk to them about it and how they need to ignore it or report it someone in authority. Print it out – document it.
- Don’t respond to cyberbullies in any way – well not without the aid of someone in authority.
- Don’t do anything with the aim of extracting revenge on cyberbullies – then you may become the person you dislike.
- Show or instruct your child on how they can block or delete unwanted messages.
- Any time they see messages or posts which are harmful, or which target them, tell them to take screenshots as proof.
- Inform them that help can be sought from social media helplines, moderators, or service providers by reporting any instances of cyberbullying and finding ways of identifying or blocking cyberbullies from acting in this manner.
Social Media is Everywhere
Bullying and abuse can happen in many different forms. However, the ubiquitous nature of social media and kind of anonymity it offers to users, makes cyberbullying a very dangerous form of abuse.
Tackling the issue requires a consolidated social, political, and legal approach. Until that happens, it is the job of parents and guardians to keep children safe and protected from the dangers of cyberbullying.
How Doorways Can Help Victims of Abuse
Teens and young adults today face trials and challenges which make them extremely vulnerable to mental and physical disorders. At Doorways, our aim is to help young lives overcome some of these difficulties and to help them live strong and healthy lives.
We have specific programs which focus on teen and young adult mental health treatment. Some of the programs include individual and family counseling for teens and young adults between the ages of 13-25.
If your child or someone close to you is depressed, anxious, or if you suspect they are harboring suicidal tendencies, please connect with us at Doorways. We can help in identifying the underlying cause for the condition and provide professional counseling and help. You can also give us a call at 602-997-2880.