The digitization of everything has decreased the degrees of separation between everyone. While that interconnectedness has solved many problems, old and new, digitization has worsened one age-old problem: bullying. An online bullying epidemic is now pushing parents, teens, teachers and technology companies to try even harder to mitigate the misery inflicted on its victims.
The connection between bullying and suicide is deeper than once believed, an updated report from the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates.
Suicide was identified as the No. 2 cause of teen deaths in Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents, published last month in Pediatrics. The AAP’s 2007 report on teen suicide found it was then the third cause. Unintentional injury was the No. 1 cause of teen deaths in both reports.
Although girls were twice as likely to attempt suicide, boys were three times more likely to succeed at suicide attempts, according to the latest research.
About four out of five of the teens who commit suicide do so without giving any clear warning signs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because warnings are so seldom expressed, the AAP has asked pediatricians to take note of heavy Internet usage and bullying when screening for suicide risk.
Parents and doctors are accustomed to screening children for signs of physical damage. They also may need to look more closely for virtual bruises, breaks and infections. Young people also may be at risk of losing control over their online interactions and developing an Internet addiction.
Back to Basics
If there were an easy solution, the bullying problem would be on the decline instead of worsening. Instead, everyone from parents to policy makers must rely on finding time-tested mitigation tools through education, professional insights, research studies and books.
One way to combat bullying is to inform teens about the damage it does, noted Dorothy A. Miraglia, a contributor to the upcoming book, The Use of the Creative Therapies with Bullying and Aggression.
All teens need to remember to think before they post, she emphasized.
“Some teens may not understand words hurt, or exactly what cyberbullying is,” Miraglia told TechNewsWorld. “Teens should be taught what is appropriate to post and not post.”
It’s critical to offer guidance to those victimized by cyberbullying and other forms of online abuse, according to Naomi Katz, author of Beautiful: Being an Empowered Young Woman.
“Guide young people to cultivate a sense of confidence that can help support them when facing challenging situations,” she told TechNewsWorld. “Encourage young people to remember that social media is only a small part of our social lives. Help them develop meaningful friendships that support positive growth.”
Another way to attack cyberbullying is to reduce the harm it causes. Facilitating a dialog between the victim and the attacker can help, Katz suggested.
“Most people would never say to someone face to face the things they would say online,” she pointed out.
Parents and counselors also should reassure children who have been bullied. They should help them reconnect with their self image, and reengage in activities that remind them of how talented, interesting and beautiful they are.
When their children become victims, parents “need to explain that they did nothing wrong and help build their self-esteem to avoid depression,” Miraglia said.