There are many reasons a teenager (or anyone, really) might start abusing drugs or alcohol. Problems at school, with friends or romantic conquests, stress, anxiety, depression, mental health issues – the list is all but endless. One thing that has driven many young people to substance abuse – and unfortunately, to suicide as well – is bullying. Bullying has transformed along with everything else in the world with advances in technology. It’s no longer a few taunts and shoves on the playground, but these days kids can launch a bullying campaign for the entire world to see. Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital platforms, such as cell phones, computers, and tablets. It might take the form of text messages, Tweets, Facebook posts, and messages sent through apps, online forums, and even online gaming.
There are particular harms from cyberbullying that can make it even worse than when it occurs in the “real world.” Everything from messages to pictures to videos can be shared instantly for everyone to see, and as they say, once something is on the Internet, it can’t ever truly be gotten rid of. It can be harder for adults to realize it’s taking place, unless parents are actively monitoring their teen’s phone and social media. Cyberbullying is also a 24/7 concern, unlike at school where at least kids get a reprieve at home and on the weekends.
There are some ways you can prepare your teen for dealing with cyberbullying, should it happen to them. First of all, make sure they know it exists. Explain that the online world isn’t all fun and games, that some people use it to torment others. Teens shouldn’t have any incriminating messages or photos stored where other people can get to them, and they shouldn’t post things online if they aren’t prepared for them to be out there permanently. Consider how many celebrities have gotten into hot water recently over things they posted a decade ago that seemed funny or harmless at the time.
Help them understand that not everything online is real. Images and videos are easily manipulated, so, for example, if a bully were to send evidence of the teen’s girlfriend apparently cheating on him, he should make sure of the facts before overreacting.
Make sure that your child knows how to socialize offline. Having friends that will stand up for them and who they can turn to for help can literally be life-saving. Many teens who commit suicide because of bullying feel isolated and like they have no one who cares about them.
You and your teen should both know how to block anyone engaging in cyberbullying, as well as report them to the proper officials. This doesn’t just mean reporting them to Twitter – if you know the person in real life, you can get parents, school officials, or law enforcement involved.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.