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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 In addition, victims tend to be withdrawn, isolated, uncooperative, less sociable, and lacking in friends.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  




Stop Corporal Punishment in Moroccan Schools – Petition Request

A reader of my blog asked for our help. Please consider signing and sharing the petition initiated by Charmaine MacDonald:

Say No to Corporal Punishment in Moroccan Schools.

love-is-light-image“Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it. Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary. It is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child’s character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse……” Bahá’í Writings

According to a report by the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, “Morocco is committed to reforming its laws to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings.” Unfortunately Morocco faces many of the same challenges as the USA enacting laws to protect children. Corporal punishment isn’t allowed in prisons nor can it be used as punishment for a crime yet corporal punishment of children is allowed. It is lawful in the home. There is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in early childhood care, day care for older children, schools, nor for abandoned children or children in foster care for abandoned children. Just like in the United States people convicted of crimes are treated more humanely than children.

In a study by the National Human Rights Council punishment of Moroccan children in protection centres (which are responsible for children without parental care or children in legal trouble)  included hitting children with pipes and sticks and slapping them. (Conseil national des droits des homes (2013), Enfants dans les centres de sauvegarde: une enfance en danger – pour une politique de protection intégrée de l’enfant, Rabat: CNDH)

UNICEF reported 91% of Moroccan children aged 2-14 experienced violent “discipline” and nearly 24% of children experienced severe physical punishment, 89% experienced psychological aggression (being shouted at, yelled at, screamed at or insulted. (UNICEF (2008), Enquête Nationale à Indicateurs Multiples et Santé des Jeunes, ENIMSJ 2006-2007, Rabat, Maroc: UNICEF)


While in Morocco a travel blogger observed “I’ve noticed that kids here, well at least the ones around us, physically fight a lot. They think nothing of slapping each other on the back of the neck or head, especially when they are upset or angry. Parents more or less stay out of it, until it escalates. Then the parents will physically punish the child. Maybe with a shoe or with their hand.”  Visit Amanda’s blog MarocMama  for her full article Raising Global Kids: Cultural Norms and Discipline of Children

I agree with the petition statement “There are other ways of disciplining children that are just as effective. Alternative punishments which are not demeaning and humiliating to children should not be tolerated either! Children should not be afraid to go to school for fear of being hit.  We want our children educated within the school system; NOT damaged!  There needs to be an emphasis on positive encouragement and a reward system for good behaviour.” 

Don’t you want to know what’s going on?

“What’s going on” troubles me deeply. The vast majority of the children I teach are not white. These delightful kids are sweet, curious, loving, funny and smart. If you met them you too would love them – all of them.

“What’s going on” is that more than 15 million children, or roughly one in five, are living in poverty. The poverty rate for children of color is more than double the rate of white children. Also the longer a child lives in poverty, the harder it is for a child to get out of it later in life.

By now you’ve got to know that poverty and crime are linked in a morbid dance and that crime and poverty negatively impact our economy. If you don’t know that open your eyes and look at “what’s going on” because your help is needed.

With our country’s abundant wealth it is a national embarrassment that only three other countries in the developed world have a higher child poverty rate than us. Where’s your national pride? Where’s your patriotism? Do you only bring it out for the National Anthem at sporting events?

All children are your children even if you didn’t give birth to them or raise them, or teach them or coach them or see them playing in your neighborhood. If you need a selfish reason to help… who do you want taking care of you and your country when you’re old and feeble and need help?

I know a woman who’s old and worried about her safety. She keeps her curtains closed, locks her windows, bars the doors and keeps a gun in case there’s ever an intruder in her suburban white affluent low-crime neighborhood. When arthritis finishes taking over her hands how is she going to lock everything up? How will she be able to pull the trigger? 

If you truly want to protect yourself… protect the children. Feed them, clothe them, educate them, protect them and for God’s sake love them.

This song has been echoing “what’s going on?” for 44 years — time for you – yes you – not the person next to you or down the street or in the next cubicle – you – to step up and change the current answer to the question.