Because of cell phones and internet, adolescents are able to communicate through means that aren’t always easily monitored. In this setting, cyberbullying has become a new and serious issue. Reports about cyberbullying, the sending of mean or hurtful comments or pictures to another person through electronic means, show that approximately 43% of kids and teens have been bullied, nearly one-quarter have bullied more than once, and cyberbullying victims are 2-9 times more likely to commit suicide.
As kids turn into teens and young adults, they tend to become more private, so it’s easy for parents to think they’re powerless in their children’s lives when much seems to be kept from them. It is not unusual to hear about parents who were not aware their child was being cyberbullied – or that he or she was the one doing the bullying. Parents do have power, though, and it all lies in being proactive, especially when only 1 in 10 kids tell a parent or trusted adult about any abuse.
- Know your teen’s email and social media account screen names – and possibly their passwords.
- Monitor children’s online activity on computers and other electronic devices. Installing software can help.
- Learn the internet terms, abbreviations, slang, and text jargon teens are using.
- Attend school or community events concerning cyberbullying.
- Show that you are an open source of communication that can be trusted; let your child know you’ll keep any information private as long as no one else’s safety or health is at risk.
- Be careful of your own reaction to any cyberbullying information you hear; remain composed as you decide what to do next.
If you suspect your child is being bullied,
- Look for emotional changes, such as nervousness, anxiety, and fearfulness, which can develop over time or suddenly.
- Talk to a school counselor
If you suspect your teen is taking part in cyberbullying,
- Reassure her you don’t intend to punish her for being honest about any involvement
- Talk to him about the repercussions of cyberbullying – perhaps carefully discussing news reports about teens who have committed suicide, plus the effects on the families
- Discuss how she would like to be treated and whether she’d appreciate being bullied
Wilderness Therapy: A Place for Adolescents & Young Adults
Along with cyberbullying, another issue of this cyber age is internet addiction, in which excessive internet use is likely a byproduct of deeper issues. Using their smartphones and computers, adolescents have constant internet access, so there is little escape from their source of bullying or addiction. Both issues can cause adolescents to experience depression, anxiety, and a withdrawal from family and friends and from once-loved hobbies.
Parents who monitor their adolescents’ behavior and are proactive can help prevent something like cyberbullying or internet addiction from becoming a bigger problem. Sometimes, though, children need a little extra support.
A wilderness program for teens can be a great source of help. The Pacific Quest wilderness program has been helping troubled adolescents overcome many struggles using organic gardening and horticulture therapy. Through students’ engagement in nature and Pacific Quest’s gardens, they gain practical life skills in a structured but calming setting. They learn how to better cope with their emotions and life challenges. The result of wilderness therapy is that troubled adolescents transform into more confident, empowered, and balanced young adults. Pacific Quest is committed to creating lasting, sustainable growth and change, so that the adolescents who go through its wilderness therapy program, an important aspect in a world in which technology is inescapable.