Spotting and Addressing Cyberbullying in Teens: A Parent’s Guide

cyber bullying pic

(Photo via Pixabay)

Spotting and Addressing Cyberbullying in Teens: A Parent’s Guide

The life of a teenager is fraught with peril. From a changing hormonal makeup to the establishment of potentially lifelong identities and the formation of their own sense of morality, it is a time of personal upheaval and confusing change.

Making this time even more stressful for many teens is the existence of bullying in one’s life. While bullying in the traditional sense remains, it has also taken on a new form. The prevalence of the internet and social media in young people’s lives has meant a rise in cyberbullying, which in many ways can be worse than traditional bullying. Parents must be aware of the signs that their child may be the victim of cyberbullying, and how they should go about preventing or resolving the problem.

Spotting a Problem

If you ever see your child exhibiting behavior which you believe qualifies as bullying, sit them down and explain to them the damage they may be inflicting upon those who they are treating improperly. However, this article will focus primarily on the effects that cyberbullying takes on its victims.

One of the factors which most indicates a child will be at-risk for cyberbullying victimhood is the amount of time they spend online. If your child spends what you consider to be a disproportionate amount of time online and/or on social media, consider that this is putting them at risk for victimhood.

Gossip and rumor-spreading have been found to be the primary behaviors which constitute cyberbullying, and many victims either ignore or pretend to ignore the problem. However, in many cases a child’s behavior will change drastically. While 40% of internet-using youth in the United States reported being cyberbullied, only 10% said they would tell their parents about the problem, making vigilance by parents of their child’s changing demeanor crucially important.

Victims of bullying tend to be more submissive by nature, but this may be exacerbated by active bullying. In addition, victims tend to be withdrawn, isolated, uncooperative, less sociable, and lacking in friends. If your child exhibits these traits, consider that they may be the result of persistent cyberbullying, and urge that they open up about any problems they may be experiencing.

Addressing a Problem 

Once you have noticed behavioral changes or deficiencies in your child, sit them down for a serious yet empathetic discussion. Ask if they are dealing with a bully, and if not, urge them to tell you what is contributing to their changes in behavior. Assuring the child that you too have dealt with bullying, and that you are there to be a sounding board for their personal problems is very important.

If cyberbullying is, in fact, the root of your child’s problems, begin by restricting internet use. Of course, explaining to them that it is in their own interest will reduce the amount of likely backlash. Then, reporting the problem – preferably with evidence of bullying in hand – to the school’s administration is the next step in stymieing the problem. Approaching the bully’s parent in a calm, reasonable way may also be an option to end the bullying, as parents often are the most influential force in that child’s life.

Lastly, inform your child about how to stand up for themselves. Tolerating the forms of microaggressions – specifically microinsults, microassaults, and microinvalidation – is in many cases an open-door for further bullying. These forms of less overt insults and slights should not be tolerated, and equipping your child with the verbal tools to combat even the most mild forms of bullying is a key to lifelong coping.


Technology has bred new forms of bullying. While the effects are similar to those of bullying, some unique differences – primarily the ever-present threat which social media poses on cyberbullying victims – means that bullying may be present in the home without parents even being aware. However, with consistent awareness of a child’s demeanor, open communication in discussing problems, and well-informed solutions to resolving any issues which may arise, parents can do their part in combating cyberbullying.

Written by Laura Pearson |





Juvenile delinquents, thugs and hoodlums: then and now

West Side Story mocked the stereotypes of delinquents, their families, the legal system, the mental health profession and social services in the song “Gee Officer Krupke”. The blame (junkie mom, drunk dad, lazy kid, etc.) and the shift of responsibility from one problem solver (police officer, judge, psychiatrist, social worker) to another when none are able to fix a “bad” kid are linked and then come full circle to the first solution of arrest and jail.

A year before West Side Story was released The Harvard Crimson published “A Unique Solution to Juvenile Delinquency”.

Charles W. Slack, assistant professor of clinical psychology, began a radical new research program for changing delinquents into useful, job-holding citizens. Sometimes criticized by local social workers, discouraged by law enforcement authorities, Slack’s plan has drastically reduced crime among boys on whom it was applied.” 

Interesting… In “Gee Officer Krupke” the psychiatrist states: “This boy don’t need a doctor, just a good honest job.” The teen’s response to getting a job: “Dear kindly social worker, They say go earn a buck. Like be a soda-jerker, which means like be a schumck. It’s not I’m anti-social, I’m only anti-work.”

Who’s right? Professor Charles Slack or lyricist Stephen Sondheim? Actually… both.

“The “Streetcorner Research” program had to overcome the participants’ resistance to working. In order to encourage the boys they were paid no matter how late they arrived which gave “immediate reinforcement” for the desired behavior.

That’s logical. After all trying to steer children from delinquent behavior to responsible employment is a tough switch. The delayed gratification of a paycheck in two weeks can’t compete with the powerful adrenaline rush triggered by delinquent actions (drugs, stealing, skipping school) that’s coupled with “immediate reinforcement” (get high, quick cash, fun with friends vs. sitting in class).

Slack noticed that it wasn’t just about the money. “If you’re paying the kids, what they’re doing has got to be worth it.” As Sondheim captured having a menial job as a “soda-jerker” isn’t appealing when it’s perceived as meaningless. When my brother was a teen he worked at an ice-cream shop. When he was reprimanded for sitting on the counter he sarcastically replied to the manager “I do minimum work because I get paid minimum wage.” Luckily his comedic timing landed perfectly and ironically got a raise, more responsibility and never sat on the counter again. (Now he’s a professor using the same irreverent humor to engage his students.)

Also during the “Streetcorner Research” program the boys behavior changed because they knew they were being watched, a phenomenon known to scientists as the “Hawthorne effect”.  People in an experiment will change their behavior, simply because they are being observed. In addition to working the boys had to keep a journal and give written responses to questions like “Why kids foul up?” So not only were their actions being monitored but also their thoughts.

Paying attention to children/teens and listening to their problems fosters connection between them and adults. Children often feel invisible and even when they speak many feel misunderstood or unheard.  A 19-year-old in the “Streetcorner” program wrote: Kids always get the blame when something happens, and they don’t get to tell their side of a story, and even when do (which is very rare) no one believes them.

Teens today feel the same frustration as the West Side Story teens yelling at Officer Kupke “WE GOT TROUBLES OF OUR OWN!” before they drop to their knees and beg for the answer to “WHAT ARE WE TO DO?” 

Has the song lost the accuracy of its satirical despair?

Unfortunately some people will continue to stereotype “bad” kids.

Fortunately many positive changes have occurred since 1960 and Professor Slack’s radical ideas that weren’t widely accepted at the time are being implemented.

Notably this summer North Carolina became last state to ‘raise the age’ of teens in court. Instead of being treated as an adult in the justice system, 16 and 17-year-olds will be served in Juvenile Court.

Organizations like Gang Resistance Education And Training (GREAT) intend to prevent juvenile delinquency before it happens and diversion programs are available for youthful offenders. With supervised activities, community service and treatment for behavioral problems children and teens receive support that will guide their decisions and actions instead of punishing them as adults. Eric Andrews, coordinator of the Wake Teen Diversion Program said in an interview for the News & Observer “Should we penalize our kids for the rest of their lives for a mistake? These are still kids.”

He’s absolutely right – they are kids and now will be treated as such thanks to the dedication of concerned citizens, advocates and organizations like the Council for Children’s Rights.


Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It’s just our bringin’ up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks!
Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re very upset;
We never had the love that ev’ry child oughta get.
We ain’t no delinquents,
We’re misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good!
There is good!
There is good, there is good,
There is untapped good!
Like inside, the worst of us is good!

That’s a touchin’ good story.

Lemme tell it to the world!

Just tell it to the judge.
Dear kindly Judge, your Honor,
My parents treat me rough.
With all their marijuana,
They won’t give me a puff.
They didn’t wanna have me,
But somehow I was had.
Leapin’ lizards! That’s why I’m so bad!


Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care!
It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
He’s psychologic’ly disturbed!
I’m disturbed!
We’re disturbed, we’re disturbed,
We’re the most disturbed,
Like we’re psychologic’ly disturbed.

In the opinion on this court, this child is depraved on account he ain’t had a normal home.

Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived.

So take him to a headshrinker.

My daddy beats my mommy,
My mommy clobbers me,
My grandpa is a commie,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!

Officer Krupke, you’re really a slob.
This boy don’t need a doctor, just a good honest job.
Society’s played him a terrible trick,
And sociologic’ly he’s sick!
I am sick!
We are sick, we are sick,
We are sick, sick, sick,
Like we’re sociologically sick!

In my opinion, this child don’t need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!

Hey, I got a social disease!

So take him to a social worker!
Dear kindly social worker,
They say go earn a buck.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means like be a schumck.
It’s not I’m anti-social,
I’m only anti-work.
Gloryosky! That’s why I’m a jerk!

Officer Krupke, you’ve done it again.
This boy don’t need a job, he needs a year in the pen.
It ain’t just a question of misunderstood;
Deep down inside him, he’s no good!
I’m no good!
We’re no good, we’re no good!
We’re no earthly good,
Like the best of us is no damn good!

The trouble is he’s crazy. The trouble is he drinks. The trouble is he’s lazy. The trouble is he stinks. The trouble is he’s growing. The trouble is he’s grown.
Krupke, we got troubles of our own!

Gee, Officer Krupke,
We’re down on our knees,
‘Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease.
Gee, Officer Krupke,
What are we to do?
Gee, Officer Krupke,
Krup you!

Let’s Combine Opposite Day and MLK Day


Today our country honors a man who dedicated his life to equal rights for all. Did you know that National Opposite Day and Martin Luther King Jr Day are both celebrated in January? What’s National Opposite Day? That zany day when we say and do the opposite of what we really mean.

Let’s combine them! Why?

What’s a dream? A strongly desired goal.

What’s the opposite of a dream? A reality.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” MLK  




Kids Discuss “I Have a Dream” – Martin Luther King Jr

#HatchKids review Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “I Have a Dream” speech and offer their hopes for the future.

SheKnows Media’s Hatch program creates KidsSpeak content for grown-ups, made by kids on a mission. For more information, visit –

5 Must-Know Facts About Teenage Depression

You are loved. You are not alone. Teen depression is common. Teen girls are more likely to experience depression. Hang in there! Nothing ever stays the same. Your life will have many changes. It does get better. You are not alone. You are loved. 

There are people you can talk to and who can help you.

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741 to talk to a trained counselor. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Phone operator for youth hotline page. Whether you are personally in crisis or you are concerned about someone who is, you can ALWAYS call 1-800-273-TALK and get a listening ear, resources, and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This hotline does not close on the weekend, holidays, or during bad weather.