How Fear of Cyberbullying Could Affect Tweens and Teens

A new study finds social media use and well-being is correlated in girls.

Posted May 06, 2018

Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Social media has become a part of just about everyone's life, especially teenagers. 

Being part of the digital landscape has many benefits for all ages. It gives people an opportunity to connect with new friends and long lost family or build their online reputation by showcasing their interests and accomplishments. 

For teens, it's can be a bit more intense 

With social media, adolescents, especially girls, have a tendency to compare themselves to others. From the number of "likes" they receive on Facebook or Instagram, to being left out of an online group.

A study of nearly 10,000 girls and boys ages 10 to 15 tracked their happiness levels and their social media usage, finding that "High levels of social media interaction in early adolescence have implications for well-being in later adolescence, particularly for females."

Professor Yvonne Kelly, of University College London (UCL), told the Evening Standard:

“For girls it can be about how many ‘likes’ they are getting. That may be less important for young boys. Another way could be through encountering cyberbullying. The more time spent online, the more likely they are to come across negative stuff. 

“The third is the impact on sleep. If you have your phone by your bed and it buzzes, few of us have the willpower to resist getting that little kick that so-and-so has got back to me.”

Taking action

Talking to our kids offline about online life is imperative. This isn't about being cyber-savvy, it's about parenting as a mom or dad. Our kids may always be an app ahead of us, but it when it comes to handling difficult or hurtful situations, they need emotional support. They need to know they can come to a trusted a adult.

5 ways to build digital resilience

We frequently discuss helping our children build resilience offline by developing attitudes of self-respect, empathy for others, and honesty, however, today we need to talk about digital resilience.

  1. Prepare them for the ugly side of the Internet or possibly being upset by what people say. Remind them it could be inappropriate content that slips through filters. Being forewarned is being forearmed.
  2. Show them how to block individuals, flag and report abusive content, and when to report incidents. Emphasize the importance of telling someone “in real life.”
  3. Show your teen how easily digital pictures can be manipulated. The realization that not everything is what it seems is a useful first step – understanding that life is not as perfect as it may seem virtually. Teens may be familiar with the digital world but less familiar with the motivations for creating ‘fake’ images.
  4. Help them to think through the possible consequences of what they post online. Remind them that there is no rewind, once it’s posted it’s nearly impossible to take back. Fifteen minutes of humor is not worth a lifetime of humiliation.
  5. Encourage your teen to socialize in person with their friends. Communicating solely behind a screen can be isolating. Socializing in person builds more face-to-face contact in helping your child have empathy and compassion towards people.

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