Jeremiah Aha, M.A., M.Div, APCC, is the Assistant Director and Therapist at Wellness Together in Rocklin. Wellness Together focuses on providing mental health services for youth and is a preferred service provider for schools and families in the Sacramento region and in Southern California. Last month, at a Cyber Safety meeting organized by HUB church in Roseville, he delivered a very instructive explanation of how the bullying dynamic plays out in the lives of youth. Below are some of the highlights of his presentation.
First, Aha explains how the vulnerability of youth is exploited in a cyberbully dynamic. “As self-awareness begins,” he explains, “we ask two questions: who am I? (which is associated with identity) and what am I worth? (our inherent value)”. Aha further explains that if a child perceives that a positive relationship is not possible, they will likely settle for a negative one than nothing at all.
According to Aha, these two questions :
Who am I?
and What am I worth?
are the deepest need questions.
So it is with this understanding of your child’s need to discover their identity and value as a citizen in your home and in the community that the following insights and tips about cyberbullying are offered. Because children are searching for identity and sense of worth, they are vulnerable to becoming insecure with the thoughts that intimidate them into believing they have no power or worth. To learn more about guiding your child to realize their inherent worth and powers of self-determination, read: Three ways your child experiences love.
Signs your child may be experiencing cyberbullying
- Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
- A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
- A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- A child becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities.
- Abnormal changes in mood or behavior, such as new or worsened depression, or heightened anxiety or fear.
- Avoidance of friends, activity, or school.
- Sudden aversion to using a phone or computer.
- Nervous or ‘jumpy’ when receiving a text
- Extreme sleeping behaviors
(Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services- stopbullying.gov)
Negative impact of cyberbullying
- Low self-confidence and self-esteem
- Self-Harm or suicidal ideation
What why cyberbullying is more intense that pre-internet era bullying.
- It occurs in a child’s home.
- Harsher things can be said than if the bully is in person.
- It can be far reaching and inescapable.
- It can be anonymous.
Four ways to respond if your child is being cyberbullied
- Ensure privacy. Find all social media accounts and make sure they are set to PRIVATE. Check to see that no phone numbers or email addresses are viewable
- Do note respond or retaliate. This can be very difficult! This can be similar to pouring water on a grease fire.
- Block or report the person from contacting your child. Change settings for only “friends” to reach you. Screen all calls, texts, & messages. Consider deactivating your account.
- Save and report all information. Take screenshots, print out info, etc. to show to a trusted adult. Cyberbullying is illegal in CA. Consider deactivating your account.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.
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