Teenagers who think their parents are loving are less likely to be cyberbullies, study suggests

Teenage girl sad over being cyberbullied.
Teenage girl sad over being cyberbullied.
Marcos Calvo/ Getty Images

It is often said that our childhood experiences shape who we become and a new study looking at the cyberbullying phenomenon speaks back to this notion. 

According to a study conducted by researchers at the New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing, teenagers who believe that their parents are loving and supportive are less likely to participate in cyberbullying.

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The survey - published in the International Journal of Bullying Prevention - had more than 12 000 participants; these were US adolescents aged 11 to 15 years old. They were asked about their family relationships and experiences with bullying and it was found that adolescents that have parents who are almost always loving are six times less likely to engage in high levels of online abuse than those who say their parents are almost never loving towards them. 

"With remote learning replacing classroom instruction for many young people, and cell phones and social media standing in for face-to-face interaction with friends, there are more opportunities for cyberbullying to occur," said Laura Grunin, a doctoral student at NYU Meyers and the study's lead author.

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

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More than half of US teenagers have experienced cyberbullying which the study describes as “online behaviour that may involve harassment, insults, threats, or spreading rumours.”

"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," said Sally S. Cohen, clinical professor at NYU Meyers and the study's senior author.

It also found that other types of emotional support matter; that it's not so much about what the parents think, but more about what the child perceives. 

"Our findings point to the importance of parental emotional support as a factor that may influence whether teens cyberbully - and more importantly, it is how teens perceive the support they receive from their parents," said Grunin.

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

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