Although the pandemic might be mostly behind us, there are some lingering issues that have left parents with more concerns. Remote learning did not benefit every student, and we witnessed a surge in the need for adolescent mental health services.
Online learning was necessary and still holds value for many students. With the increased screen time, we also need to equip our students with both emotional and media literacy skills to handle cyberbullying.
In 2018, PEW Research shared that the majority of teens have been the target of online harassment and believe it is a big problem. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, student victimization has been increasing steadily over the past 5 years.
Another study in 2019 in SAJIM said that students were negatively affected both emotionally and academically by cyberbullying—to the extent that some thought of suicide.About 41 percent of the victims confirmed that they became less active in class, 24 percent confirmed that their school performance had dropped, and 35 percent had repeated a grade since becoming targets of online bullying.
Since 2020, some parents have witnessed their smart teenager going from being a straight-A student to barely passing. Cyberbullying causes psychological harm just like bullying—if not worse in some situations since it is online and your teen can revisit the ugliness constantly.
This emotional distress can cause depression, anger, anxiety, low self-worth, and school avoidance, and all this can lead to poor academic performance.
Giving your teen the digital tools offline can help them cope with online bullying to improve their grades.
1. Acknowledge online hate and be prepared. Sadly, cyberbullying happens to people of all ages. It is likely your teen has already read a lot of disturbing and disheartening content on social media; however, when or if they become the target of a smear campaign is when they realize the emotional toll it takes on a person.
By having a better understanding of cyberbullying (online shaming) and how prevalent it is, your teen will be more resilient if they are attacked online. It doesn't mean it will hurt less, but they will be prepared—knowing bad things do happen togood people.
2. Become knowledgeable about online tools. Teens today are on many social platforms. It is crucial that your teen knowshow to report online abuse and harassmentas well as how to block users on each platform they use. It is just as important that they read the "terms of service" as they pertain to harassment and abuse, so they understand what constitutes abuse on each platform.
3. Talk, talk, and talk more to help develop trust. Did you know that spending 15 minutes a day listening to and talking with your teen can help build the foundation for a strong relationship and provide support so that he/she can come to you with a problem?
Most parents have a difficult time getting their teenager to communicate—however, short chats can lead to better relationships and your teen will feel more comfortable talking to you about embarrassing problems such as being humiliated online. One of the more troubling trends is sextortion, which can begin with sexting. If this happens with your teen, you want them to be able to come to you without hesitation.
With or without the pandemic, technology is only evolving and education will always be key to your child's future. Securing their mental health and well-being is a priority and if they are struggling with online abuse, it must be addressed immediately. With digital harm, it can be easy for your teenager to focus on the negative and become overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness, leaving them abandoning not only their studies but also things they used to enjoy.
Using these three ways will help your teenager be prepared if they face a time of despair online. Never doubt the impact you have on your child's life—you are their greatest influence.