Untitled design (12)

3 Commonly Asked Questions on Cyberbullying Answered

Hi! I’m Sgt. Brian Trainor, retired police detective from the Saskatchewan Police Service and member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers.

Since retiring, I’ve traveled across Canada particularly in northern aboriginal communities to talk to students, parents and teachers on issues surrounding cyberbullying.

As a friend and supporter of VISR, I’ve been asked to share my experiences and so here are the top 3 questions I am most often asked at my talks.

Question 1: I am certain that if my child was cyberbullied, they would tell me.

A 2014 Canadian survey titled, Protecting Canadian Families Online conducted by Leger on behalf of Primus Telecommunications Canada (Primius) with children ages 8-16 and their parents, it was revealed that the vast majority of parents believe that their children would tell them if they were cyberbullied. However, that same survey revealed a startling disconnect between fact and fiction.

The majority of Canadian parents are overly optimistic their children will take the first steps to report being bullied online. In fact 89% of parents surveyed feel their children would tell them if they were being cyberbullied. However, according to research by PREVNet, only a small percentage of cyberbullying gets reported, with only 8% of teens reporting incidents to parents.

Protecting Canadian Families Online survey

Did you get that?

89% of parents think their kids would tell them if they were cyberbullied.

REALITY?

8% of our kids would tell us. EIGHT PERCENT! NOT 89%! Talk about being out of touch.

Talk to your children about cyberbullying, and start at a young age. Studies have shown that toddlers as young as two have used some form of interactive media. It’s never too early to open up this conversation.

Question 2: My teen is showing signs of depression and anxiety especially after being on their cellphone? Is this normal teenage hormones? Should I be concerned?

Kids refer to it as “drama”. Drama is taking place in their lives every moment of every day. We had it too as teens; however, we were fortunate in some ways that we didn’t have the internet to contend with. Anonymity was much harder to pull off back then than it is now with interactive technology. So what to do about this “drama”?

Get your kids to disconnect for a day.

Yes, it will nearly kill them to do so, yet that’s what they need to do. The internet has been shown to be an addiction. It provides the same feel good hormones (serotonin and dopamine) as does an opiate like morphine. It is totally “all consuming” just like any other narcotic. To tell your child to disconnect is like cutting off their right arm (for right handed kids), but it needs to be done periodically. Seriously! You need to establish a “Connect Free Day” for the entire family…you included. Lead by example.

Kids need to know that they are not the “drama” they are experiencing.

It does not define them nor does it identify them. It is just what it is…“drama”, and it will not last forever (though most kids feel it will). Reassure them that “this too shall pass”.

If your child is exhibiting signs of anger, depression, or anxiety after being connected, you can be assured that there is some sort of negative “drama” taking place online that’s affecting their lives.

Do not be afraid to have your child examined by your family doctor if you suspect depression or an anxiety disorder that is out of the norm for them. Be proactive; not reactive. You may save a life.

Question 3: Why does my teen overreact to what they have read online? They seem deranged and unable to think straight. What’s behind this? Drugs? Alcohol? Hormones?

Sheryl Feinstein, author of Inside the Teenage Brain: Parenting a Work in Progress (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009), says that a teen’s decision making ability is controlled more by the amygdala area of the brain (the “fight or flight” region), rather than the (rational) prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop in humans until they are well in their twenties.

But in the heat of the moment, their decision making can be overly influenced by emotions, because their brains rely more on the limbic system (the emotional seat of the brain) than the more rational prefrontal cortex.

Adolescent Angst: 5 Facts About the Teenage Brain by Robin Nixon

So chalk a lot of that emotional outburst to an underdeveloped brain. Teens do not have an adult brain. Give your kids space. Practice calmness and empathy, and listen without trying to “fix”. Men are fixers. I’m a “fixer” yet most of the time your teens aren’t asking you to fix anything. No one wants you to fix anything. Go mow the lawn or something. Teens just want to be heard, and more importantly, listened to.

Remember: You’re the parent…you are not their buddy, their chum, or their pal. Of course you love them unconditionally, and hopefully you tell them that daily; however, remember you are their parent, and as such, you need to provide the guidance, set the example, and yes, lay down the rules.

Have a question for Sgt. Brian Trainor or want to hear more from him? Check out our Ask the Experts online community forum and get answers to your parenting questions today!