The Effects of Cyberbullying

Young Female Using Smart Phone

The following information was taken from a Screenagers Tech Talk Tuesday Emailing.

Cyberbullying is a big concern for parents and kids alike. But defining it, and helping children and teens understand exactly what it means is challenging.

The definition of bullying from StopBullying.gov is:

“Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”

Children and teens either don’t recognize cyberbullying, or are often afraid, or unaware of how to stop it. Even if they see or hear about one incident that wouldn’t be considered, by definition, bullying. However, today’s technology allows for “one time” incidents to escalate quickly, and it can quickly turn into cyberbullying. The developing brain and lack of impulse control, etc. also can exasperate the problem.

Here are some things to discuss with your child/teen about cyberbullying and how we can put an end to this terrible trend:

  • How do you define cyberbullying? Parents, then share your definition.
  • Have you ever been bullied? What about cyberbullied?
  • Do you think parents are overly worried about cyberbullying?
  • Can you be cyberbullied via text, or just on social media?
  • What do you do when someone says something mean online about someone else? How about when someone says something mean about you?
  • Who are some trusted adults you can talk to about cyberbullying?

This is an increasingly pervasive problem that we need to work together to help solve. That starts with conversations and helping children and teens alike understand the dire, long-term consequences that can be involved. If you believe your child is struggling with cyberbullying and needs help dealing with it, call TAG Counseling (678-297-0708) for a consultation.

Image Source

Screens & Autism

Gaming

The study of screens and their effects on children are on-going. A movie called Life, Animated, is coming out in 2016 telling the story of a boy named Owen who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3. His family discovered that using Disney movies helped him relate better to those around him, through the many characterizations. (Trailer found here: https://youtu.be/4n7fosK9UyY)

However, Jason Calder, LMFT, CMHC and Clinical Director of Unplugged at Outback Therapeutic Expeditions in Lehi, Utah has found evidence throughout his own research that warrants greater discussion outside of the Disney entertainment and cautions a potentially misguided message.

Calder says, “While digital media use in moderation can be helpful for some individuals, compulsive usage can have the opposite effect. I came across a study once which showed that too much screen time can induce “autism-like” traits. The study wasn’t necessarily saying that screen time was causing autism, just similar traits. From a synaptic pruning standpoint this makes sense. Neurological real estate is valuable; use-it-or-lose-it. Since we know that the vast majority of face to face communication is non-verbal then this is what we are losing when so much of our interaction becomes digitized. It could very well be that the cognitive processes that normally govern those interactions lie dormant if screen time is pervasive enough, and that those neurological centers get utilized for other functions (similar to the famous London cab driver study).

From my own qualitative research I’ve found some evidence for this. Roughly 40% of the clients in our Unplugged program have either been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum or possess enough traits of ASD that they will likely warrant a diagnosis. But the fascinating thing for me has been to watch some of these folks develop more neurotypical traits as they detox from screens. As you may know, our program participants are in nature 24/7 and are 45 miles from the nearest electrical outlet. I’ve found that some of my clients initially present with heavy Autism Spectrum (Level 1) traits but that they start to decrease these traits over time; around 4-5 weeks they start giving me solid eye contact and begin reciprocating conversation. It’s been amazing to see!”

While we continue to study these trends, it can always be said that more quality time interacting with our children in positive ways yields good results.