Cyberbullying could rise during lockdown, but parents can stop it

  • Increased cellphone and social media use are causing teens to face more cyberbullying
  • With unemployment and more parents at home, family dynamics have also changed
  • Adolescents with loving parents are, however, less likely to engage in cyberbullying, researchers found

Cyberbullying is less common among teens who feel loved and supported by their parents, new research shows.

The findings could be especially relevant during the coronavirus pandemic, say a team from New York University.

"With remote learning replacing classroom instruction for many young people, and cellphones and social media standing in for face-to-face interaction with friends, there are more opportunities for cyberbullying to occur," noted study author Laura Grunin. She's a doctoral student at NYU's Rory Meyers College of Nursing, in New York City.

"New family dynamics and home stressors are also at play, thanks to higher unemployment rates and more parents working from home," she added in a university news release.

Emotional support

For the study, which was based on surveys from 2009 and 2010, Grunin and her team analysed responses from more than 12 600 US youth aged 11 to 15 years. The kids were asked about their bullying behaviours and their relationship with their parents.

The more adolescents considered their parents as loving, the less likely they were to cyberbully, the survey findings showed.

Those who said their parents were "almost never" loving were at least six times more likely to engage in high levels of cyberbullying than those who said their parents were "almost always" loving.

Other types of emotional support, including how much adolescents felt their parents help and understand them, also influenced cyberbullying behaviour, the researchers noted.

The study was published in the International Journal of Bullying Prevention.

Teen's perception of emotional support

More than half of US teens say they've experienced online harassment, insults, threats or spreading rumours.

According to study co-author Sally Cohen, a clinical professor at NYU Meyers, "Understanding what factors are related to a young person's cyberbullying of peers is important for developing ways that families, schools and communities can prevent bullying or intervene when it occurs."

Grunin said the findings point to the importance of emotional support from parents.

"I would stress to parents it is not necessarily if they think they are being supportive, but what their adolescent thinks," Grunin explained. "Parents should strive to discern their teen's perception of parental emotional support as it might be associated with youth cyberbullying behaviour."

Image credit: iStock

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