Make it a point not to miss family dinners to connect with your kids and help them cope with cyberbullying.
Like traditional bullying, cyber or internet bullying can increase the risk of mental health problems in teenagers just as much as the misuse of drugs and alcohol do, says a new study.
Cyberbullying involves the posting of rumours and gossips about people on the internet, with an intent to defame.
For the study, the researchers examined the association between cyber-bullying and substance use problems to that of mental health, as well as any moderation of the effects through family contact and communication during the course of family dinners.
The study included survey data on 18,834 students, within the age bracket of 12-18, from 49 schools in the US. Nearly 19% of the students reported they had experienced cyberbullying during the previous 12 months.
Family dinners appeared to moderate the relationship between cyberbullying and mental health, the findings showed.
For example, with four or more family dinners per week there was about a four-fold difference in the rates of total problems between no victimisation to frequent victimisation. When there were no dinners the difference was more than seven-fold.
“Family dinners (family contact and communication) are beneficial to the adolescent mental health and may help protect adolescents from the harmful consequences of cyberbullying,” said lead author Frank Elgar from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
The study appeared in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.