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Risk Factors for Cyberbullying...
By Paul Donahue, Ph.D.
that run into difficulties online often have personal situations that
make them more vulnerable to being participants in or victims of
cyberbullying. To assess their children's level of risk, parents should
determine if their children display any of the following signs or
1. Impulsive Behaviors
who are impulsive tend not to think before they act. They have a hard
time hitting the 'pause" button, and often race right from "That's a
cool idea" to jumping into behaviors without any in-between steps. Most
teens are prone to this kind of thinking, but certain kids have a longer
history of springing into action without considering the consequences.
The Internet allows them to turn thought into action at lightning speed,
and impulsive teens are more likely to say or do something online that
they will later regret.
2. Risk Taking
teen years almost always involve experimenting, some kids are naturally
prone to pushing limits. They're often the first to try alcohol or
drugs, or to take physical risks for the sheer thrill of it. They love
stimulation, and the internet provides them endless possibilities to
explore and try new things. Much of this can be harmless, but kids with a
predisposition to taking risks are likely to test the boundaries of
what is socially acceptable online, and can put themselves and other
kids at risk with inappropriate chatter about sexual exploits, violence
or bullying behavior.
3. Social Insecurity
are all concerned about their social status and where they stand in
relation to their peers. Kids who are insecure are more likely to raise
the level of competition online, and may go too far in trying to one-up
their classmates or friends. This type of jockeying can be common in the
"popular" crowd and other groups, and is more prevalent in school
environments that encourage intense competition and achievement.
that don't have many solid connections to other kids may turn to social
networking sites and chat rooms to re-invent themselves and to develop
friendships. They may try on new identities in the hope that they will
seem more appealing to their peers or to strangers they meet online.
Lonely adolescents can sometimes let their guard down, leaving them
vulnerable to being led on or humiliated by more savvy or manipulative
classmates or adults. Alternatively, kids who are isolated may view the
Internet as a place to exact revenge, and to strike back against kids
who have slighted them in the past.
depression is often dismissed as normal "teenage blues," but many teens
struggle with more serious feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.
Depressed teens may use their profiles or chat room discussions to
expose their vulnerabilities in the hopes of getting reassurance or
support from their peers. They may find that some solace if their
friends reach out to them, but this well-intentioned advice should not
substitute for other forms of intervention or counseling. If their
feelings are dismissed or ridiculed they may sink further into despair,
and may become an increased risk for suicide or other means of acting
6. Reaction to Significant Life Events
who are living through difficult times often experience powerful and
raw emotions that are not easily contained in online discussions.
Parents' divorce, a death in the family, a recent move, a bad break-up
or school failure can all lead to teens feeling overwhelmed and
out-of-sorts. During periods of intense emotion kids are less likely to
be thinking clearly, and to have limited judgment and decision making
capacity. They are more likely to be influenced negatively by their
peers or adults during Internet chats or to be swayed into engaging in
risky behaviors they would not ordinarily consider.
Donahue, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and the Director of Child
Development Associates in Scarsdale, NY. He is author of Parenting
Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focusing on What Really Matters.
He has been profiled by The New York Times and has appeared in Parents
Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Family Circle, as well as on The CBS
To learn more about his work, visit www.drpauldonahue.com
Comment by Ellen Lebowitz, posted 12/5/2010, 1:00 PM:
Below is a link to a NY Times story about digital bullying. I hope this is helpful to everyone. Thank you, Ellen Lebowitz