Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on July 23rd, 2018, 0 Comments

Cyberbullying Rarely Brakes for Summer

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place electronically – through email, a chat room, texting, an instant message app, or a website. Nationwide, nearly 15% of high school students say they were bullied online during the last 12 months, according to a report just released by the CDC. At the middle school level, nearly 25% of students say they’ve been bullied online. And the actual numbers may be much higher because this type of thing tends to be underreported.

Cyberbullying can be relentless, affecting many teens on a daily basis. And sadly, it rarely brakes for summer. Instead, with more time on their hands, those doing the bullying often put the pedal to the floor.

Some of the most common cyberbullying tactics include:
– Posting mean or hurtful comments about someone or posting an embarrassing picture or a video
– Creating a mean website about someone
– Pretending to be someone else online in order to shame or embarrass them
– Threatening to hurt someone or telling them to kill themselves
– Doxing (short for the word “documents”) someone by making their personal information public

Being bullied can impact a teen’s overall happiness and wellbeing. It can increase the likelihood of anxiety or depression and increase the risk for suicide related behaviors. It can negatively affect their relationships with peers and family members and disrupt school performance by cutting into their motivation.

Teens who witness bullying are affected too. These teens often report feeling guilty about not confronting those doing the bullying or supporting the one being bullied. They too are more likely to develop mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

Try This
Talk and listen. Start a conversation with your teen about what cyberbullying looks like. Talk about the risks to all those involved – even if your teen claims they already know. Try to listen as much as you talk. But be clear about your expectations that they 1) not post anything that could be hurtful to someone else and 2) refuse to pass along any hurtful messages that others have shared with them. Also assure your teen that you are there for them, making sure they know they can come to you with any concern.

Be alert. Many teens won’t tell their parents if they are involved in cyberbullying. They may be afraid of the response they’ll get – including the fear that their devices will be taken away. So it’s part of your job as a parent to be inquisitive – even nosey, paying special attention to how your teen behaves when using their electronic devices. Be watchful for these warning signs:
– Noticeable increases or decreases in their electronic device use
– More emotional responses (anger, tears) to what is happening on their device
– Hiding their device or screen when others are around and being unwilling to hand it over when asked
– Shutting down social media accounts or opening new ones on their device
– Avoiding social situations they’ve enjoyed in the past
– Change in mood – withdrawn, depressed, anxious or often angry
– Change in behavior – especially in sleep patterns or in grades at school

Calmly speak up if you sense trouble. Try to stay clam as you ask questions to determine what is happening, how it started, and who is involved. Of course, you’ll be upset. This is your kid – and they may be hurting. But getting upset or reacting in anger will make it more difficult for your teen to talk to you about the issue.

Together figure out the response. Work with your teen to define a plan for moving forward.
If your teen is being bullied:
Document. Keep a record of what is happening and when. Print copies or take screenshots of harmful content if possible. Most policies and laws define bullying as repeated behavior, so records help document the pattern.
Report. If a classmate is cyberbullying, talk with your teen about options for reporting it to the school. You can also contact social media platforms to report harmful content and have it removed. If your teen has received physical threats or if illegal behavior is occurring, contact the police.
Support. Strategize with your teen for ways to avoid engaging the one who is bullying them, including blocking the individual. Be available to listen and guide, reinforcing that you are there for your teen and helping them find ways to insulate themselves from the hurt. Don’t blame your teen for being bullied. Even if they have made unfortunate decisions that have aggravated the situation, no one deserves to be bullied.
Monitor. Keep an eye on things to determine if additional support is needed from a counselor or mental health professional.
If your teen has witnessed someone being bullied: Help them come up with some safe ways to offer support and standup for the person being bullied. Peers can sometimes positively influence the situation by posting positive comments about the teen targeted with bullying. It can also help to reach out to the teen being bullied to express concern.

Bottom Line
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying. Make sure your teen knows that you take all forms of bullying seriously. If you notice warning signs that your teen may be involved in cyberbullying, take steps to investigate their online behavior.

If cyberbullying is happening, address it the same way you’d address other forms of bullying: by supporting the teen being bullied, addressing the bullying behavior of a participant, and helping teens who’ve witnessed bullying find safe ways to try to support the teen being bullied.

Next Up
The next post will take a look at the other perspective: what to do if you learn that your teen has been bullying others online.

Report Cyberbullying
Five Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Cyberbullying by Rebecca Lacko
Measuring Bullying Victimization, Perpetration, and Bystander Experiences
Cyberbullying Tactics

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Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on June 25th, 2018, 0 Comments

How Much Moodiness is Normal?

Most teens are moody. Everyone knows that. But how much moodiness is normal?

New data released by the CDC last week show that teen depression – which has been increasing for a decade – is continuing to rise. In the past year, 31.5% of high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row. Yet, we parents are often painfully slow to acknowledge the warning signs of depression in our teens – especially when compared to the attention we give other disease symptoms.

Part of our hesitation can be explained by the fact that teen depression is a relatively new diagnosis. Until the 1980’s psychiatrists didn’t think that adolescent brains were mature enough for an adult illness like depression. Plus until the mid-80’s there were no safe, effective drugs to treat depression in teens. So historically speaking, doctors were reluctant to diagnose the illness in teens and quick to dismiss teen moodiness as part of normal adolescent development.

But we parents can also hesitate to acknowledge the warning signs because none of us would choose for our teen to have depression. Given the choice between, “My teen is a moody kid” and “My teen has a potentially life-threatening illness” we’ll pick the first. The second is too scary.

Try This
How much moodiness is normal and how much is a sign of depression? With teen depression on the rise, more parents are asking themselves this question.

To monitor your teen for signs of depression, look for changes in three main areas:

Changes in Mood
Feeling sad or low
Feeling nothing or a lack of enjoyment in formerly pleasurable activities

Changes in Physical Symptoms
An increase or decrease in appetite, leading to a change in weight
Sleeplessness or not being able to get out of bed in the morning
Not being able to focus or concentrate
Having little or no energy
Feelings of agitation or restlessness, sometimes relieved by self-medication via drugs, alcohol, or self-harm

Changes in Self-Attitude
A loss of confidence or self-esteem
Feelings of worthlessness

Note: Although most people have experienced one or more of these symptoms in their lives, to diagnose depression, psychiatrists look for a cluster of symptoms that last for at least two weeks, interfering with a person’s functioning socially, academically, or emotionally.

(Karen Swartz, psychiatrist and director of clinical programs at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center)

Bottom Line
Adolescent depression is a common illness among teens that is often not recognized. There are effective, safe therapies and medications to treat it. But if left untreated, depression can have dire consequences.

So be on the lookout for warning signs in your teen. When you ask them how they’re doing, also ask them how they’re feeling. Get help if worrisome symptoms persist. And be sure that your teen knows that if they’re concerned about themself or a friend, they can talk to you about it.

Selected Sources and Resources
The Rise of Teen Depression by Joe Sugarman in Johns Hopkins Health Review; Fall/Winter 2017
Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary & Trends Report 2007-2017

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