Social Media

The Impact of Cyberbullying On Today's Teenager

Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among children ages 10-18, according to CDC data. Young victims of cyberbullying are twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm, according to this study.

Debbie Dobbs does her best to limit social media for 13-years-old daughter because she sees its effects on children first hand.

"She's just not ready for it," said Dobbs, who is also the executive director of The Counseling Place in Richardson.

The Counseling Place offers emotional health youth programs and victims' assistance when called upon by local police departments.

Counselors strive to teach young people good coping and decision-making skills to help them make healthy choices instead of harmful ones.  

Dobbs said social media comes up in most conversation with at-risk teens.

"They go into a group chat or direct messaging with others who may be feeling the same. Then, they just stay in that dark place and they don't get out," said Dobbs.

Experts said a negative comment or a screenshot or video that goes viral can weigh just as heavy on a teen's emotional well-being as an adult who loses a job.

They said it's because teens lack life experience.

"Kids don't see the future like adults do, so when they're miserable they think they're going to always be miserable," said Children's Health psychiatrist and UT Southwestern Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Betsy Kennard.

She said parents should talk with their teens openly about what happens on their social media accounts.

"It's so easy to say, 'It'll get better. You're going to be fine. Don't worry about that. It's not a big deal,' and really, that invalidates the child's concerns," said Kennard.

She said validation is key. Validation is the acknowledgement of another person's thoughts or feelings. It is the communication that what someone is thinking or feeling makes sense given the circumstances.

Parents should also talk with their child's school if they suspect cyberbullying.
Another piece of advice is setting stronger restrictions on their teen's social media use, which may not be popular with your child.

"There are so many parents who say, 'That's just the way it is,' and it's the way it is because we let it," said Dobbs.

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