Family dinners may soften cyberbullying impact
Regular family dinners may help protect kids from the harmful effects of cyberbullying, according to a 2014 study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers surveyed more than 20,000 adolescents on their experiences with face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
“We found that emotional, behavioral and substance use problems are 2.6 to 4.5 times more common among victims of cyberbullying,” said lead study author Frank Elgar, in a news release. “And these impacts are not due to face-to-face bullying; they are specific to cyber bullying.”
However, the researchers noticed that the children who regularly ate meals with their families were experiencing fewer mental health problems from cyberbullying incidents.
This suggests that family contact and communication – not necessarily the meals themselves – may help reduce some of the distressing effects of cyberbullying, the study authors said.
“Many adolescents use social media, and online harassment and abuse are difficult for parents and educators to monitor, so it is critical to identify protective factors for youths who are exposed to cyberbullying,” Elgar said.
Nearly 43 percent of kids have experienced cyberbullying, according to the DoSomething.org. And even though it may not take place in person, the psychological and emotional effects are just as destructive, experts say.
Dr. Katy Talerico, a pediatrician at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., offers the following tips for parents to ensure their kids stay safe from potential bullying situations while online:
- Have a sense of what your kids are doing online. Newer devices have built-in tracking software, allowing parents to go back and look at all the sites their kids have visited.
- Talk to your kids and set guidelines so they know what they can and cannot do online. For example, be clear about what sites they can visit and help them be smart about what they post or say.
- Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they are being bullied. Explain that you will not take away their computer or cell phone if they confide in you about a problem they are having.
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