Bullying has been a frequent and recurring issue among teens for years, regardless of generation or awareness. With the prevalence of social media accessible at all hours of the day, bullying doesn’t stop when kids go home. Cyberbullying now occurs when victims are sent degrading or threatening messages from another person online.
This harassment can happen through social media, video game chats, or a messaging app. According to a 2019 study, more than one-third of teens have experienced cyberbullying, and sadly, it is becoming an increasingly common problem.
A Landmark Report found that teenagers are spending an average of 9 hours per day online. This means that if a child is a victim of cyberbullying, it can be nearly constant. This incessant online harassment is what makes this type of bullying so dangerous. Cyberbullying can have long lasting effects on mental health while increasing the risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.
A strong link exists between cyberbullying and mental illness, including substance abuse disorders. Children who become victims of cyberbullying are much more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. In fact, one study found that individuals involved in cyberbullying are three times as likely to develop depression, a common cause of addiction.
It’s also common for children to turn to substances to cope with the stress of cyberbullying. Using substances as a coping mechanism, especially before reaching adulthood, greatly increases the risk of a substance use disorder. A 2011 study found evidence that when children are bullied at a young age, their chance of using illicit drugs when they’re older was much higher.
Because cyberbullying can lead to both mental illness and substance addiction, it’s essential to do what you can to prevent it. If you know a teen who’s been involved in any form of cyberbullying, it’s important to get them the help they need to maintain a mentally healthy and substance-free life.
It’s common for teens to experience cyberbullying without communicating it. If a teen has been harassed online, they may need support to deal with the emotions surrounding the experience. That’s why it’s essential to watch for signs of cyberbullying so you can help your teen get the support they need. There are a few common warning signs to watch for:
If you notice a teenager expressing nervousness about attending school, it could be a sign of feeling uncomfortable around their classmates. This could be a warning sign of either bullying or cyberbullying.
When a child acts upset during or after using social media, this is a warning sign of cyberbullying. It’s important to be aware of the mood social media can cause.
When a child stops participating in activities they previously enjoyed, it’s a warning sign. They may have been bullied for participating in that activity. It’s also possible that someone else involved in that activity is acting as a bully.
If you’ve noticed someone distancing themselves from their friends, it could be a sign that cyberbullying is occurring in the friend group. It could also be a sign that a child is becoming less social due to the negative mental health effects of cyberbullying.
While everyone can be a victim of cyberbullying, it is most common among girls and members of the LGBTQ community. If you see warning signs in teenagers who belong to either of these groups, be sure to talk to them about it.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, friend, or neighbor of a teen, there are things you can do to prevent cyberbullying. If you’re a teen yourself, you can have an even greater impact in preventing cyberbullying.
One of the best ways to prevent cyberbullying is to share information about what cyberbullying is. If teens are able to recognize a cyberbully attack, they can disengage immediately. They’ll also be aware of the effect their own online presence has on others, which will make them less likely to become cyberbullies themselves.
If you’re a friend or family member of a teen who may be involved in cyberbullying, that person should know they can speak to you about anything. If you directly ask someone if they’re being bullied, but you don’t have a trusting and communicative relationship established, they may not be fully honest.
Establish a communicative relationship by making time for conversations. During that time, be open and vulnerable about yourself to set an example for the person you are talking with. Ask questions, but allow the other person to respond in their own time, and don’t push them to share past their comfort zone.
Over time, following these habits will create a strong channel for communication. If the teenager you’re worried about is experiencing cyberbullying, they’ll be more likely to confide in you because you’ve established trust in your relationship.
Mental illness and addiction are both issues that can be very overwhelming when you don’t receive the proper support. Whether the mental illness or addiction is related to cyberbullying or not, help is available for treating the issue. It’s especially important to seek help for mental illness and addiction if the person suffering from these issues is a teenager. Due to the ongoing development of the brain and body of a teenager, long-lasting mental and physical effects could be suffered prior to and past adulthood.
Therapy is an excellent treatment option for people with mental illness, addiction, or both. A trained therapist can help struggling individuals unlearn old habits and form healthy coping mechanisms for the stresses of life.
Medication can also be used to treat mental illness and addiction. Many people have used medication to achieve healthy and fulfilling lives. A medical professional can discuss whether you’re a good candidate for being treated with medication.
If someone’s mental illness and addiction are advanced, a rehab center might be a good option for treatment. Rehab centers can provide therapy and medication, while also providing other more structured support systems. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or addiction, reach out to a provider like Jackson House to discuss whether a rehab center can provide the help you or a loved one might need.