Bullying prevention in the digital age- Dean - WI

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Published on October 21, 2016

Bullying prevention in the digital age

There’s no getting around it, digital devices are engrained in our day-to-day activities and will be for the rest of our lives.  Our young children will never know a world without them.  But while they keep us connected, they offer an environment where bullying can prosper. 

Cyberbullying: A complex problem

A 2013 survey by the CDC found that 15% of high school students were victims of cyberbullying in the past year.  That could mean they received mean text messages, emails, or had embarrassing things posted to social media. 

The situation may even be worse than projected, since kids’ technology is constantly evolving.  Researchers are devoting more time to the issue, but admit it’s difficult to accurately capture trends. 

Not only is cyberbullying a complex topic to study, it can be especially easy for bullies and hard for victims to get away from.  It can happen any time of the day or night.  In addition, the person doing the bullying is often protected because they can post anonymously, or easily delete the harassing messages. 

That can have lasting effects on some people.

“Just like kids who are bullied in person, cyberbullying victims are at a greater risk to use drugs or alcohol, struggle in school, and have self-esteem problems,” says SSM Health Dean Medical Group Dr. Megan Kuikman.  “That’s why it’s important to address the issue quickly, by talking to your child, keeping any evidence, and consider reporting the behavior to school or even law enforcement.”

How to tackle prevention

If cyberbullying is so tough to research and identify, how can it be prevented?  Even though some of the recommendations may be challenging for parents, the Department of Health & Human Services identifies these steps:

  • Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with.
  • Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern. Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
  • Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
  • Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
  • Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.

Try not to fear technology

It can be easy to mistrust the internet and the latest tech devices, but let’s not forget that they have benefits. 

“Social media has become a part of growing up, so it’s OK for your child to be connected,” says Dr. Kuikman.  “Social media can teach children things about themselves they might not have otherwise found, so restricting them from this could actually slow growth.”

Development often relies on some online and in-person relationships, so try to support your child as they explore both worlds.  Just don’t let the face-to-face time get lost in the shuffle.

“Research still shows that physical time with family and friends plays a vital role in promoting learning,” adds Dr. Kuikman.  “Try not to lose that tech-free time, because back-and-forth conversation is a much better educator than passive interaction with a screen.”

Time for Kids & Channel 3

We are proud to partner with WISC-TV Channel 3 on this important initiative.

Visit the Time for Kids section on channel3000.com for more resources on keeping kids healthy!

Related Services

Looking for assistance with your diet and eating habits? Check out the services of:

Mental Health Services

Comprehensive Weight Management Program

Pediatric Dietitian Services

Nutrition Services

Diabetes Management

Living Healthy Program - For Dean Health Plan members

Healthy Partners Program - For Dean Health Plan members

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