With technology now the primary mode of communication for teenagers, parents and health care providers can't tune out the facts about cyberbullying.
The recent wave of technological advancements has transformed the way people conduct business, practice medicine, and communication. Unfortunately, it has also changed the way children and adolescents harass and bully each other, according to a presentation given Thursday, Oct. 28 at the AACAP 57th Annual Meeting in New York, NY.
Cyberbullying, according to Ruth Gerson, MD, of the New York University Child Study Center in Brooklyn, NY, is defined as intentional, targeted harm inflicted through text or images sent via Internet, cell phones or other communication devices. It is an issue that needs to be on every provider’s radar, she said, considering the following facts:
The statistics on cyberbullying are extremely sobering, said Gerson, particularly since technology is now the primary mode of communication for teenagers, making it easier than ever for children to harass and bully someone without speaking a word to them or even seeing their face. “Kids are doing it without thinking of the consequences,” she said. “And since bullies don’t see the person, they are less likely to feel guilt and will keep doing.”
Children who are victimized by cyberbullying report feeling “upset, embarrassed, anxious, and afraid to go to school,” and are at an increased risk for depressive symptoms, are more likely to use alcohol and cigarettes, have more academic problems, and experience greater somatic symptoms including headaches and poor sleep. And the perpetrators don’t fare much better, as they tend to experience higher levels of mood disturbance and substance abuse, and display greater physical and sexual aggression.
Although much more research is needed on this topic, what has been shown is that children and teenagers who spend more time online are more likely to be affected by cyberbullying, and that those with less access to text messaging are less likely to engage in sexting.
Therefore, said Gerson, it is critical that parents are aware of how their children are using technology, and that they work with children and health care providers to deal with any adverse issues that arise.