A Cup of Coffee: Why Do Kids CyberBully?

Welcome back! Last week we talked about our young adults that won’t leave home. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

In 2017, The Washington Post reported that a nationally representative poll, taken by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan found that overall the top 10 health concerns for children were:

  1. Bullying/cyberbullying (61%)
  2. Not enough exercise (60%)
  3. Unhealthy eating (57%)
  4. Drug abuse (56%)
  5. Internet safety (55%)
  6. Child abuse and neglect (53%)
  7. Suicide (45%)
  8. Depression (44%)
  9. Teen pregnancy (43%)
  10. Stress (43%)

When a full 61% of parents polled expressed fear of their child being bullied, either at school or online, one has to wonder, what percentage of children really are being bullied? Is this really a thing? The polls would say, YES. It is, and it’s not just here in the United States.

While some would say that our current political climate contributes to the disrespect youth are demonstrating towards each other, the polls would disagree with that statement. In fact, the United States isn’t number one in the bullying department.

According to a new Ipsos/Reuters poll,of more than 18,000 adults in 24 countries, 6,500 of whom were parents, showed the most widely reported vehicle for cyberbullying was social networking sites likes Facebook, which were cited by 60 percent.

Mobile devices and online chat rooms were a distant second and third, each around 40 percent.

In Indonesia, 91 percent said they knew about cyberbullying, in which a child, group of children or younger teen intentionally intimidates, threatens or embarrasses another child or group through the use of information technology such as social media or mobile devices.

Australia followed at 87 percent, while Poland and Sweden trailed slightly behind. But only 29 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 35 percent in Russia, had heard of cyberbullying.

In the United States, where cases of cyberbullying have been widely reported to have been linked to teen-age suicides, the figure was 82 percent.

This survey was the first actual global study of cyber bullying. It polled mostly the parents, not the actual victims themselves, so it is wondered if the percentages are actually much higher than even the parents are aware of. Frightening.

So let’s get to it. Why do youth bully? Is it influenced at home? Is it chemical? Biological? If you know a youth that is a bully, then understanding it’s origins is key.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. writes,All too often, society focuses on the victim of bullying. Little help may be offered to the bully, who may also be suffering from concerns that could benefit from treatment (or at the very least, parental attention).

Bullying is a problem in many schools. But we need to realize that bullying isn’t always just plain ‘ole bad behavior. Sometimes there are other factors at play. After analyzing responses from a parent survey, the researchers found that those who were considered bullies were more than twice as likely to experience depressionanxiety and attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD).

Psych Central’s Rebecca Lee reports that, “Because there is a degree of separation from someone when using the internet, it may be easier to treat others in a way we would not normally do so in real life. Online harassment can take many forms. Social media plays a role when people write nasty comments that are made public. Sharing nude photos around the web or through phones is also a form of cyberbullying. Impersonating someone online and using their image to embarrass themselves is particularly damaging. The difference between cyberbullying and other types of bullying is that cyberbullying doesn’t end when someone walks away.”

Many adults have said, “I was bullied as a kid, and I lived…let them work it out“, or “Stop being a helicopter parent…your kid gets stronger by working out their own issues with their peers“. The problem with cyber bullying is that the mental health consequences can be life threatening. Many youth have killed themselves due to being bullied online.

It’s unfair to believe that our youth have the coping skills to deal with this barrage of insults that not only happen at school (“I saw your nude picture online“) but follow them home as well. There is no rest from cyber bullies.

Psych Central goes on to state, “Duke University recently conducted research that shows the rates for agoraphobia and panic disorders greatly increases with bullying. Mental health issues such as depressionanxiety, and low esteem haunt many adults who were once bullied in childhood.

The one thing parents feel most often when they hear their child is a bully, or that their child is being bullied, is a sense of helplessness. “Why isn’t the school doing anything about this?“. StopBullying.gov has the following suggestions to stop a bullying situation:

  1. If someone has made a direct threat of harm, call 911.
  2. If your child is being affected emotionally, or shows signs of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or ADD/ADHD, find a counselor. Schools often have in-house counselors trained to discuss these issues.
  3. Contact the Teacher, the Counselor, the Principal, the Superintendent, and the Department of Education if the issues aren’t resolved.
  4. If the bullying is in regards to race, color, national origin, sex, disability or religion, contact the School Superintendent, The State Department of Education, the US Department of Education (office for Civil Rights) and the US Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division).

Bullies are often in need of mental health treatment. These issues rarely resolve without some kind of intervention. Some may say they just need stronger discipline at home, and in some cases that may be correct, but it is always best to rule out medical issues first, before resorting to stronger discipline. If a youth is struggling with mental illness, then all the extra discipline in the world won’t make a difference in their behavior. Get help. If not for your child, for the children they are affecting and who may not be able to survive the assaults.

Here is a video on the top 10 forms of cyber bullying. Please share this so other parents can be made aware of the complicated world our children are living in.

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