The Bledsoe Firm - November 2019

The Bledsoe Firm JustFamilyLaw.com | 949.363.5551 NOVEMBER | 2019

A ddressing the D ark S ide of S ocial M edia and C yberbullying

With the popularity of social media, we’ve seen a cultural shift. People are constantly on their smartphones, scrolling endlessly through their social media apps. It’s become an addiction that impacts kids, teens, adults — everyone. We’ve been talking about the dark sides of social media for the last two months, such as toxic perfectionism, but there’s one issue we haven’t yet touched: cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has been an issue for over two decades now, but with the increasing popularity of social media apps and smartphones, it’s easier than ever for kids to bully one another. For instance, kids might be bullying other kids over apps like TikTok. TikTok is an app designed to make and share quick videos. Many people use it to lip-sync to popular songs or to do little comedy skits. For the most part, the app is harmless, but kids do use the app to attack other kids. Those “attack” videos get shared, they spread, and it can be a matter of hours before everyone in a friend group, or everyone at the school, has that video. Of course, kids can bully other kids on just about any app. There was even a story that appeared on Lifehacker.com about how kids used Google Docs — an online word processing app — to bully other kids. It shows the lengths kids will go to bully. But no matter how kids choose to bully other kids, it can lead to serious consequences. Bullied kids are at far greater risk to develop depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. The challenge for parents comes down to the fact that cyberbullying is hard to “see.” It happens away from the eyes of anyone who is not participating in the bullying until it’s brought to the attention of a parent, teacher, or another authority figure. By then, the damage is often already done.

Of course, cyberbullying is a small part of a much bigger issue. We know for a fact that social media and screen addiction have a negative impact on mental and

emotional health. While this affects adults as well as children and teens, it is much worse for younger people who are still in their formative years. They’re still trying to figure out the world and who they are — and when they see all kinds of things on social media, it just adds to the confusion.

Collin Kartchner, a social media activist who founded #SaveTheKids (savethekids. us), has spoken with ER doctors about the dire consequences of social media and screen addiction. These doctors have talked to Collin about teen suicide and suicide attempts. Collin says suicide attempts are attributed to one of two things: No. 1 is “My parents took my phone,” and No. 2 is cyberbullying on social media. “Handing a smartphone with social media and untethered access to these apps with no training or no guidance is like handing them the keys to a car with no drivers ed,” Collin says. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat teach you that “You’ll never be enough. You’ll never be skinny enough or pretty enough or good enough that your worth is contingent on virtual likes, follower counts …” Collin continues: “The 24/7 constant access to peer culture is opening up a door and a wave of cyberbullying and social anxiety that we have never seen. And kids today are choosing to self-harm as a coping mechanism and a way to get attention.” As far as Collin is concerned, it’s an epidemic. But there are things we as parents, grandparents, and educators can do. Next month, in our final look at the dark side of social media, we’ll get into what parents can do to combat the negativity of social media and better protect their kids from issues like toxic perfectionism and cyberbullying. Stay tuned.

—John Bledsoe

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