Is there a link between cyberbullying, sexting and drug use?
We’re living in an age where the headlines of cyberbullying and sexting are becoming common. It doesn’t mean we have to accept this as the new normal, we should be embracing these articles as conversation starters with our teen’s.
In a study conducted a few years ago by Journal of Adolescent Health, teen victims of cyberbullying (which now can also be victims of sexting), are more likely to abuse drugs. A more recent study found that youth cyberbullying is most common between friends or former friends.
Why is this disturbing?
Friends and peers are everything to today’s teenager. When someone turns against you or maybe your friend has a jealous streak, it can be brutal online. However the emotional damage it can do to a youth offline can be devastating. How will they handle their pain — will they seek help by talking to an adult or will they possibly turn to substance use to mask their internal pain?
In a Times of India study, it revealed how cyberbullying effected both the online bully and the victim. With this, we have two young people that are struggling to overcome the stress of emotional pain — and now perhaps turning to substance abuse. It’s a full circle of emotional abuse with no winners, which is why parents need to take broader steps to open the dialogue to understand their teen’s online and offline lives.
Sexting might be the new normal, but it doesn’t make it right.
We’ve read a lot of articles about cyberbullying. Sexting can be considering an extension of it as more and more are teens are being lured into sending nudes which can lead to ridicule and harassment online. For many, there can be legal consequences that parents need to know and share with their teens before they find themselves facing sex charges.
It’s a parent’s responsibility to empower their teens with the knowledge to make good choices about how to use all forms of technology and social media. But how can parents approach sext education?
• Start talking: When your teens hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults.
• Just do it: You may not get a perfect time to break the ice, but don’t wait for an incident to happen. Be proactive and use a recent headline to open the lines of communication.
• Make it real: Teens don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world.
• Address peer pressure: Teach your teens to be self-confident and take pride in their individuality. ‘Am I pretty enough?’ is a burning question for many young girls today. It takes just a few keystrokes to help them feel good about themselves — or exponentially worse. Acknowledge that social pressure to participate in sexting can be strong. But remind teens that public humiliation stemming from it can be a million times worse. Also give them a way out. If someone is asking them for nudes, let them blame you! Your parent regularly monitor your phone and will take the device from them if they see any sexual content or comments.
• Give them control: If teens receive unwanted sexually-charged messages or pictures, they should know what to do next: Be the solution. They should tell you or another trusted adult, and never forward or share those messages with friends.
Parents have to remember that conversations offline, as well as going online with your teen every once in a while, is imperative to helping them make better decisions when you’re not with them. It’s not about a once or twice chat, these are discussions you have on a regular basis – asking your teen how their cyber-life is should be as common as how their day was at school. It’s that important — and that much a part of their life.
Order Shame Nation book to learn more insights on digital wisdom. A perfect book for both parents and teens to read together and discuss.