Many parents don’t already need to be told that social media simply isn’t a good idea. However, some of their teens might disagree because of the socialization, connecting, and communication that can happen online. Yet, other teens have opted to stay away from the craziness that goes on with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and for good reason.
Sadly, online communication provides a certain distance that other forms of communication don’t. And perhaps it’s this distance that allows some teens to severely bully and harass other teens. One student in Florida, for instance, only 12 years old, committed suicide after months of ongoing bullying through aggressive online messages and texts. Although the young girl transferred to another school, the bullying continued. Up to 15 girls were assaulting her through messages that told her to “drink bleach and die”. Sadly, one girl admitted that she didn’t care that she died. Two of the girls who bullied her were charged with felonies and will spend time in juvenile detention.
This kind of harassment is sometimes referred to as Cyber Bullying. It happens when a teen or child is harassed, embarrassed, threatened, or tormented using digital technology. As the Internet becomes more and more popular as a means of communication, the web and social media are becoming a venue for bullying. It often happens more than once and includes the use of texting or cellular phones to post images or text on the web. For instance, an image and demeaning messages might be posted on Facebook (social bullying), uploading embarrassing images, or spreading gossip or rumors through instant or text messaging. There are a number of ways to cause humiliation for another person on the way if someone had the intention to do so. There are many organizations that are working towards preventing cyber bullying, including helping children and teens identify what might be harmful on the Internet.
Text Bullying is similar to cyber bullying; the difference being the use of texting to harass another person. Text bullying has some unique distinctions from other types of bullying. For instance, it can happen 24 hours a day. Whereas previously, children and teens might have found refuge from bullying at home, this is no longer the case. Also, text bullying can sometimes be more severe because the bully is not able to see their victim.
As the numbers of teens who use digital technology increase, so do the chances of online bullying among adolescents. And there are certainly a large number of teens who use technology as a regular part of their lives. For instance, according to the California Adolescent Health Collaborative describe the following of California teens:
- 75% of teens own a cell phone
- 88% of cell phone owning teens text
- 72% of teens use text messaging as a means of communication.
- 73% of teens have used a social networking site
- 63% of teens watch online videos
- 61% of teens play games online, including those that require more than one player
- 52% of teens have commented on a blog
These statistics indicate that teens today are using technology in their daily life, and who may perhaps use this as a means to bully or experience bully themselves.
Furthermore, social media and other forms of technology can affect a teen’s mental, emotional, and physical health. For those who have been bullied, and even those who engage in bullying online, research indicates that bullying for both the victim and perpetrator are associated with mental illness. Furthermore, an article in the New York Times points out that texting, which can be incredibly distracting, can take a toll on a teen’s mental health. From a study done by Pew Research Center, teens are texting over 50 texts per day, and one third of teens are texting 100 or more per day. One in seven teens send more than 200 texts.
Some teens might say that it’s just not cool to actually call someone; texting or messaging someone through Facebook is the better choice. However, some parents may need to watch their teens to ensure that their time online isn’t taking a toll on their emotional and psychological well being. And especially if there’s bullying, limiting time spent online may just save a teen’s life.