October is National Bullying Prevention Month as we told you in our last story. (YHF: Bullying awareness and prevention during the pandemic)
Tom Caughlan is a licensed clinical social worker and the manager of Clinical Social Work and Behavior Health with Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs. Tom says, bullying is defined as, “Any unwanted or aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance or differential. We know from studies that bullying is something children and teenagers engage in. Bullying behaviors happen in kids who are feeling very insecure about themselves. We’re dealing with an age group that is insecure, it’s part of teen development and peers are easy targets in many ways.”
Tom says bullying can be verbal, social, virtual and physical. “The classic is physical bullying and I think our schools are doing a wonderful job of making sure that the physical aspect doesn’t happen as much. The other aspects, however, are harder to police and cyber bullying is a major problem and that’s been on the increase.”
Warning signs that your child might be suffering from bullying are increased isolation, frustration, mood swings, outbursts, or a change in the way they interact with friends or peers.
Tom also says It’s important also to make sure your kids understand that social media is designed to be addictive. “The algorithms that are created by those social media companies as well as the AI (artificial intelligence) present in those algorithms is programed to learn how to both give us reward, a dopamine hit when we get a like, but also to make us not feel so great when we are watching everybody portraying their best selves.”
Tom says creating a family media plan and sticking to it is a major key to parents helping their children navigate social media and screen time in a healthy way. Parents leading by example and showing they can also follow the family plan and put their phones away at dinner time is important.
Finally, Tom says, remember that bullying can also be going on in your teen’s closest relationships. “I think with those romantic relationships we need to be asking our teenagers what is happening with the texting conversations with them and a significant other. There can be an inherent power differential in those relationships. Are they pressured into sending things like compromising photos? Are they ghosted, or not responded to which can make them feel very vulnerable and can cause mood swings. The thing to ask them is, are they in a healthy relationship? Ask them does this relationship and being with this person make you feel better about yourself? If the answer is no, then that’s a further conversation to have with your child.”
There may still be space in tonight’s virtual workshop for parents hosted by the Pikes Peak Library District, Academy School District 20 and Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs on Monday, October 19th at 5:30 you can click (HERE) (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bullying-prevention-resilience-virtual-talk-tickets-125353570905)