Karen Corcoran Walsh, MS
Karen Corcoran Walsh is the owner and co-founder of the prominent teen rehab Inspirations for Youth and Families, and the Cove Center for Recovery, an adult therapy program. She has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and the Ask Dr. Nandi Medical Show among others focused on teen behavior and substance abuse, including “Teen Talk.” Corcoran Walsh is a registered marriage and family therapist.
The definition of socialization has been greatly altered over the past decade. Families used to sit around the dinner table and talk about their day, kids gathered at their lockers and gossiped about the most recent drama in school, and restaurants used to have more people talking face-to-face whether during a meal or over a casual drink.
Clearly, communication has drastically changed across settings. Now it is often as if the bodies are there but the minds are not, with people’s attention glued to their device in hand. Along with this change, the problem of cyberbullying has raised its ugly head.
Media Smarts (2016) points out that social bullying, especially online, has dramatically increased in recent years. As more kids have access to a range of new digital devices and apps, the options to bully have multiplied. Nearly 43 percent of youths have been cyberbullied, and one out of every four youths have had it occur more than once (DoSomething, 2016). One study revealed that more than half of today’s youths have experienced some type of online bullying while gaming (Cross et al., 2012). Children who deal with special challenges are, of course, particularly vulnerable targets.
Girls are more prone than boys to play the roles of both attacker and victim. Sadly, reportedly 10 percent of children who have experienced serious trauma from cyberbullying have attempted to take their own life, and 7 percent of victims admit to turning into the tormentor (TeenSafe, 2016).
Strategies to combat cyberbullying
The damage cyberbullying can cause goes without saying. The best defense is the development of prevention strategies, and these efforts are often led by parents and educators. Knowing which grade levels, genders, groups, and genres are more likely to be at risk are key to developing a plan.
Students should be taught to save any evidence of bullying, and encouraged to report bullying incidents to parents as well as school staff. Incidents should always be relayed to the host of the social media site where they bullying occurred. All victims or their families should be informed of the importance of contacting the authorities to report consistent targeting. (Notar, Padgett, Roden, 2012).
Local communities offer Internet education classes and share materials to help direct mothers, fathers, and even grandparents on how to deal with this issue. Advocates suggest that parents can and should track their child’s emails using specific software, and can even have specific mail of their child forwarded to their personal box if it has target words related to cyberbullying. Further, Googling the child’s name will sometimes reveal if any types of personal, unwanted materials have been posted by others. Most importantly, parents need to establish a solid platform of communication with their children, Role-playing with kids can be an excellent tool.
Parents and teachers live in a world where so much has changed in terms of technology that it is now much like a game of playing catch-up. This generation of children hit the ground running in terms of Internet use, and the older generation has to be proactive to confront potential dangers.
Recommended resources for practical tips
StopBullying.gov: Written for kids; parents can also use the tips in talking with their child.
Cyberbullying.org: Ten top tips for teens
Kaspersky (Internet security company) Reader friendly suggestions
National Crime Prevention Council: Written for parents/teachers with directions to follow and concepts to share with children and teens.
Cross, E.J., R. Piggin, J. Vonkaenal-Platt and T. Douglas. (2012). Virtual Violence II: Progress and Challenges in the Fight against Cyberbullying. London: Beatbullying. Retrieved from https://www.cybersmile.org/wp-content/uploads/Virtual-Violence-IIBeatBullying.pdf
DoSomething. (2016). 11 Facts about Cyber Bullying. Retrieved from http://dsomething.org.
Media Smarts. (2016). How kids Cyberbully. Retrieved from http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/digital-issues/cyberbulling/how-kids-cyberbully
Notar, C., Padgett , S., & Roden, J. (2012). Cyberbullying: Resources for Intervention and Prevention. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1053892.pdf
StopBullying (2016). What is Cyberbullying? Retrieved from https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/
TeenSafe. (2016). Cyberbullying Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.teensafe.com/blog/cyber-bullying-facts-and-statistics/