Playgrounds and schoolyards used to be the only platform parents had to worry about bullying for their adolescents and teens. The digital modern world has created a new platform which poses a threat to teen’s mental health due to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and the potential for bullying. Social media and it’s many distinct platforms, like the popular for teens’ Instagram and Facebook, is an open digital playground for shaming, humiliating, taunting and teasing. Hidden from parent’s and teacher’s views, children don’t have to be worried about getting caught in plain sight. Instead of hiding behind trees, buildings, or walls of participating students, adolescents are hiding behind their phones, their tablets, and their computer screens. Online bullying is traumatizing, depressing, and hurtful. Too often, our adolescents are struggling in desperate silence against online bullies. In addition to online bullying, there is online advocacy for self-harming behaviors. Drug sales of synthetic designer drugs containing unknown chemical formulas happen effortlessly through Instagram. Secret blogs and forums advocating pro-anorexia and other eating disorder behaviors, tutorials on how to get intoxicated with household items– too much information is made available to our children surfing the web and looking for something to do.
Talk To Your Teen
Talking to a teen about bullying and online activity can be challenging because they view their lives online as they do their lives offline; private. Without inquiring or investigating, open a dialogue of curiosity about their experiences online. What do they do with their time on the internet? Who are they communicating with, what do they like to explore? Have they or any of their friends ever encountered online bullying?
Turn To Apps
Apps like Freedom can register multiple devices and create specific blocklists to designate hours of the day where internet use is limited. From just a few minutes on social media, to hours without their smart devices being able to connect to the internet through any app, these monitoring apps can help you shut their access down a few hours of the day. Other apps include internet monitoring where you can gain some insight into where your child is spending the most time on their phone. Some more strict apps can temporarily strip the phone down to bare necessity apps, only able to be undone by you, the parent.
Get The School Involved
Schools are just starting to learn how to navigate online bullying and create on-campus consequences. If you believe your child is being bullied online, especially if you have proof, it is critical to bring it to the school’s attention and get other parents involved. Online bullying can cause mental health distress which might lead to substance abuse or other problems.
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