How to Keep Your Teens Safe: Bullying Prevention in the Digital World
Ross Ellis, the founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying, is no stranger to teenage behavior and the role that technology plays. She’s seen it all - amazing choices like that of the girl who decided to go smart phone free for an entire year, as well as how ugly bullying can be and the toll it can take on a teen’s self-esteem. Not to mention, how difficult bullying prevention can be when the bullying is happening in cyberspace.
Recently, a new comprehensive study by PEW Research on the effects of social media and technology on teenagers has been published. Here is a breakdown of some of the most important statistics to note based on expert opinions from Ross Ellis. Plus, she shares what parents can do to take charge with their teen in the digital world.
What’s Happening to Teens in 2018 Because of Social Media?
Teens are online “almost constantly”.
According to the study, 95% of teens in 2018 own a smartphone and 45% of teens say they are online “almost constantly”. For anyone who’s ever seen a teenager in public, this is probably not a startling statistic. However, what is important to note is that of the teenagers who say they are online all the time, 24% say that social media is having a “negative experience on their life”.
These negative experiences include unrealistic views of others’ lives, drama (in general), peer pressure, mental health issues, and causing distractions or addiction (to social media).
While some teens in the study felt that social media was positive because it helped connect them to others with similar interests, one teen commented the following about the internet:
“People can say whatever they want with anonymity and I think that has a negative impact.” (Boy, age 15)
So, what does this mean? Basically, that while social media isn’t necessarily all bad, it’s extremely accessible and, statistically, teenagers are spending enormous amounts of time on the internet which can lead to drama, bullying, and other negative experiences.
All of this online activity can be a breeding ground for cyberbullying.
As the comment above showed, the anonymity of the internet makes bullying and harassment that much easier to do. So, it’s particularly important for parents of teens in 2018 to be vigilant about their teenager’s behavior (off and online) as well as educating them about safe digital citizenship, as well as a great deal of communication about digital safety.
What parents can do…
As a parent, it’s extremely important for you to become digitally savvy and know what’s going on with your teenager’s lives online. It’s your job to set age-appropriate boundaries and make sure that your teens are adhering to those rules.
There are a million horror stories about what can happen when teenagers are unrestricted on the internet - everything from coming into contact with predators to being horribly bullied by classmates. Take measures to keep your teen safe and focused on doing their schoolwork as much as possible.
These measures could look like this:
- Set age-restrictions on your computer so that certain sites are off limits
- Take your teen’s smartphone away during homework time and/or before they go to bed
- Consistently check on your teen’s social media profiles
- Have honest discussions with them about cyberbullying, harassment, sexting, and online predators
No matter what your teen is going through, make it a priority to give them every resource that you can.
Help is available through the STOMP Out Bullying HelpChat Line for teens who are experiencing cyberbullying, bullying, or harassment. The goal of the Live HelpChat Line is to help your teen reduce the stress, depression and fear they are feeling as a result of being bullied and to empower them to make healthy decisions. Whether online or offline, your teen’s safety, self-esteem, and well-being is a number one priority. Let them know that there is always help available and don’t be afraid to set boundaries when necessary. Their very life might depend on it.
When the HelpChat Line is NOT available and your teens are IN CRISIS please have them contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or the LGBTQ National Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743).