It’s no surprise that the virtual world and social media have changed the way our children relate to and spend time with each other. The exponential growth in technology and access to social media has influenced children to spend less time at the park and more time “hanging” out on their phones and computers. This development has changed the way children interact, at times allowing for dangerous and inappropriate social interactions within schools, in the community and at home.
Cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content are online occurrences that may jeopardize the emotional and physical safety of children and teens. Unfortunately, it is common for these occurrences to go unnoticed. Password blocked sites, embarrassed children, and technologically unseasoned parents make it difficult to fully monitor healthy social behavior.
In order to combat and confront cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate online content parents need to REACH their child (ren):
- Recognize any negative social and/or behavioral changes in your child
- Educate your child about the differences between safe and unsafe online activity
- Awareness of dangerous cyber trends, including websites and social media
- Communicate with your child about benefits of social media and technology
- Hear what your child has to say about his/her experience of the virtual world
The C in REACH asks parents to communicate effectively. Effective communication improves the way information is transmitted interpersonally and how messages are understood. By taking a non-judgmental, active listening stance parents can ask questions and have conversations with their children in an effective manner. In addition, effective communication can promote healthy, open relationships and prevent children from keeping secrets, being defiant and acting out. As we know, children are more inclined to defy parents and behave irresponsibly when they do not feel understood or heard. Effective communication can help squash this propensity and help empower parent-child relationships.
Signs to look for in a child that may be the victim of cyberbullying may include, but are not limited to:
- Withdrawal from social relationships
- School avoidance
- Negative behavioral changes
- Poor sleeping
- Poor appetite
- Anxiousness and irritable mood
- Constantly checking computer
For more signs and symptoms of cyberbullying check out Cyberbullying Research Center: http://www.cyberbullying.us/cyberbullying_warning_signs.pdf
Effective Communication: http://www.livestrong.com/article/69309-effective-communication/
For more information and further research on the potential impact of social media on children and teens, visit The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/4/800.
This post was written by Elizabeth Eidson, LCSW, & Lauren Wandy, LCSW. Ms. Eidson & Ms. Wandy are NY State Licensed Clinical Social Workers who specialize in treating Adolescents, Young Adults, Couples and Families facing a broad range of clinical issues.