A recent survey of Nebraska high school students showed 15.7 percent of teens reported being cyberbullied.
“It’s a bigger issue today than it ever has been,” said Jessica Jackson, LIMHP, CHI Health Mental Health Therapist. “Because it’s not just at school, it’s 24/7.”
The anonymous nature of some apps and social media platforms lends itself to a culture of kids being mean without fear of retaliation.
“It’s easier for kids to bully because it’s harder for others to identify them,” she said. “There are fewer consequences and it’s easier to deceive ourselves into thinking we’re not doing something wrong.”
Beyond the anonymity, some apps make messages temporary, and conversations can disappear within seconds.
“Kids think they can say things because their words will just ‘go away.’” Jackson said. “They lack empathy to understand how that really affects another person.”
There are many reasons why someone becomes a bully.
“They could be bored, jealous, or they may feel a sense of vindication when targeting others because they have been in that position and want to take the power back.” Jackson said.
In a majority of cases she sees, Jackson says teens are the cruelest about others’ appearances. “They tend to attack others for the way they look, their weight, their clothing, things like that.”
Parents are encouraged to monitor and limit social media use, and enforce consequences for bad behavior.
“There are a lot of bad examples of bullying in our world from adults, and if kids see that, they think it’s okay,” Jackson said. “Help them recognize the words they are saying are hurtful to people, and it can last like any physical scar.”
Suspect someone is being cyberbullied? Think they may be the antagonizer?
What to say:
- “Not everyone looks, feels or acts the same, it’s important to be kind.”
- “If you wouldn't say it to their face don't say it online, in a text, or a post.”
- “Picture the situation in reverse and think about how you would feel if the shoe was on the other foot.”
- “Never put anything online that you wouldn't want classmates to see.”
- “Keep passwords and personal information private.”
- “Don't send messages when you’re angry or upset.”
What to do:
- Respect kids' privacy while remembering that safety overrides privacy concerns.
- Encourage open communication about feelings and emotions.
- Urge face-to-face connections and hobbies offline.
- Be aware of changes in mood, stress, anxiety.
- Look for sadness, isolation, anger, or secretive behaviors, especially around their phones.
- Take note of new friends and social circles.
- Block bullies and consider consulting a school counselor.
Help is closer than you think.
Need help, but it’s not an emergency? CHI Health is the largest mental health provider in Nebraska and southwest Iowa. With more than 60 psychiatry providers and more than 70 therapists, there’s a provider near you. To get started, go to CHIhealth.com/findaprovider.