Advice on dealing with bullies has always been passed down from one generation to the next, and for many years has remained much the same. Phrases like ‘ignore them’, ‘don’t stoop to their level’, ‘tell a teacher’ and ‘names will never hurt me’ have been recited by parents and children for decades, with varying degrees of success in overcoming the problem.
Today’s generation of parents, however, are faced with a problem that wasn’t around when they were children – cyberbullying. The potential for bullying no longer ends when the school day is over, and although parents understand the internet and are generally social media savvy, they don’t have the experience of growing up with social media, and may not fully understand the pressures and anxiety it can give to young people.
In particular, it appears that young girls are feeling the strain of social media. In a poll of nearly 300 girls aged 11-14 carried out by girls’ lifestyle magazine Shout, nearly 8 out of 10 respondents thought social media was one of the biggest contributors to poor mental health among young females. What is perhaps even more worrying for parents of girls in this age range is that they seem to have little faith in adults helping them through this struggle, with the vast majority (79%) thinking grown-ups don’t understand the pressures they face due to social media sites.
No adult, whether they have children or not, can really look at this and feel that they’re not part of the problem. As an example, I will admit to being surprised that respondents generally thought Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner to be negative role models. I assumed these sort of ‘it girl’ fashion icons were largely who they would look up to, but it appears that the likes of author JK Rowling and vlogger Zoella are more the types of personalities they admire. A huge 84% said they believed pressure to look and dress a certain way was a factor in mental health issues, which does raise the question of whether young people are being targeted with a message that not only doesn’t sit too well with their parents, but one that they are not even keen on themselves.
Parenting and cyberbullying are currently in a strange ‘loggerheads’ situation where the only people who can understand it are those experiencing it, and those with the power to tackle it (the older generations) are not grasping the problem. Perhaps it will take until today’s children become parents before real-life coping mechanisms can be passed down.
If you’re concerned about cyberbullying, particularly if carried out through a fake Facebook account, our special eBook may be able to help you.