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Teenage Turmoil: Tackling Cyberbullying Frenemies To Foster Psychological Safety, II



Still got scars on my back from your knife, so don’t think it’s in the past. These kinds of wounds they last and they last.” -Taylor Swift, Bad Blood, 1989

 

It was in the mid-90’s. I was in my first job out of college when out of the blue I started receiving sexually harassing emails from an unknown sender to my work email address. I couldn’t prove it but I knew in my gut the emails were from my boss; they included some of the same crass things he’d said to me when he’d been drinking at a team happy hour. I was caught off guard, young and too embarrassed to tell anyone, so I did nothing.  

 

I lost count how many emails I received. I felt isolated, uneasy going to work and continually looked over my shoulder to avoid seeing him. My psychological safety was compromised. I didn’t know what to call it at the time, I don’t think that many people did. I do now. I was cyberstalked – it’s a form of cyberbullying.

 

Welcome to Part II of this series which covers, teenage cyberbullying impacts, parental indifference, and tips on how to break the vicious cycle. For an overview of the various types of cyberharassment, what cyberbullying is, how it shows up and why, check out, “Teenage Turmoil: Part I.

 

Teenagers often navigate complex social dynamics online, where interactions are less supervised and anonymous. In this environment, parental guidance and involvement is crucial. However, parental indifference plays a significant role in teenage cyberbullying. Ostrich parents who have their head in the sand, “refuse to see their children have problems so they don’t get them the help they need.” Parental indifference in the context of cyberbullying refers to,

 

lack of acknowledgment and action taken by parents of the bully.”

 

Parental indifference stems from:

  • Reluctance to confront difficult situations

  • Lack of awareness about their child's online activities

  • Failure to recognize the seriousness of cyberbullying

 

Parental indifference not only contributes to the normalization of cyberbullying behavior among teens, it fails to address the root cause of ‘why’ the negative behavior is occurring. It also inadvertently enables, and potentially encourages the bullying behavior, by sending a, ‘no consequences’ message.

 

Parental indifference potentially creates a cycle of harm as it can intensify the emotional toll for both the victim and the bully. Victims may feel like they have nowhere to turn for support and protection, and the bully may lack boundaries and guidance to fully understand the impact of their harmful actions.

 

Cyberbullying has a very negative impact on teens. Consequences of teenage cyberbullying extends beyond the phone or computer. As the Taylor Swift lyrics above indicate, it can have long-lasting effects on a victims mental and emotional well-being, which includes:

  • Emotional Consequences: Victims often experience heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and fear, as they are subjected to constant harassment. Likewise, they often experience a sense of powerlessness and helplessness, as they struggle to escape the relentless onslaught of online harassment.

  • Psychological Effects: Self-worth and belonging is impacted. Cyberbullying can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation, worsening existing mental health issues or triggering new ones.

  • Social Ramifications: Targeted teens may withdraw socially, fearing further ridicule or embarrassment.

 

Typically, targeted teens are overwhelmed about how to deal with cyberbullying. It’s hard for them to escape, as technology is 24x7. Teenagers tend to not talk about being bullied, as there’s a sense of shame associated with being a victim and their inability to stop it.

 

Recognizing signs of cyberbullying and taking swift action to address it, is crucial for early intervention and support. Changes in behavior, such as sudden reluctance to use electronic devices, avoidance of social activities, or mood swings, can be an indicator of that this harmful behavior is occurring.

 

Don’t Be An Ostrich. Ignoring the behavior doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Whether your child is being bullied and/or you think they may be the one doing the bullying, addressing the behavior is crucial. Breaking the cyberbullying cycle requires proactive involvement from parents by:

  • Monitoring online activity

  • Educating about responsible digital behavior

  • Fostering empathy and respect towards others

  • Intervening immediately if their child is involved either as a victim or a bully

  • Imposing appropriate consequences

 

Sure! It’s difficult to bring up uncomfortable topics but open communication helps to foster a supportive environment where teens feel comfortable sharing information WITH YOU. Engaging in frequent cyberbullyingconversations helps parents understand their child’s online activity and provide the necessary guidance and support to navigate the digital world responsibly. Make sure to,  

 

  • Bring up various ‘taboo topics,’ so they’re, ‘the norm

  • Ask questions

  • Actively listen

  • Don’t judge

  • Let your teens know you have their back AND best interest

 

Above all else, if your teen won’t talk to you, get them the help they need with a professional counselor or therapist.

 

Cyberbullying thrives in an environment of parental indifference. By turning a blind eye to the online actions of their children parents inadvertently contribute to the harm. The consequences for victims are profound, leading to heightened feelings of isolation, vulnerability and a lack of psychological safety.

 

Cyberbullying is a complicated topic. To help you better understand how to navigate it, I’ve dedicated a page on my website specifically for this topic. I’m also talking to schools, to help foster awareness about what parents can do and where they can find support. Additionally, in an effort to ‘free the world from frenemies,’  you can find tips and advice in my book, ‘Behind Frenemy Lines.’ Message me with your proof of purchase, if you’d like the .pdf workbook to go along with it.

 

Stay tuned, for part III of this series in two weeks, where I share what parents can do to protect their teens.

 

Today I will be fearless. Today I am grateful.

Shine on beautiful people. 🦄

 

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about psychological safety and how to deal with female frenemies, follow me on LinkedIn!

 





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