The US Department of Education recently released statistics showing an increase in cyberbullying, up from 11.5% in 2014-14 to 15.3% in 2016-17. The more alarming news: that increase is felt mostly by girls.
Why Social Media?
The vehicle behind most of this cyberbullying is social media. Studies have shown girls use social media more frequently and for longer periods than boys. Why are girls more interested in social media?
Gloria DeGaetano, Founder/CEO, Parent Coaching Institute and author, Parenting Well in a Media Age, believes it stems from the deeper need to belong telling Parentology, “On one level girls are seeking connection with their friends through social media. I think on a deeper level, though, they’re seeking acceptance, approval and nurturing from their peers.”
This sense of belonging is crucial as girls mature into adulthood, so if they experience cyberbullying it can greatly impact their self-confidence and self-acceptance.
How Do You Know If Your Daughter Is At Risk?
DeGaetano says she asks parents four simple questions to determine if their daughter’s social media use is trending toward dangerous:
- What activities besides social media does your daughter choose and participate on her own besides social media?
- If there are in fact other activities, what is the amount of time spent in those activities compared to time on social media?
- Do these other activities help her form and enjoy face-to-face, interactive relationships with her peers?
- Is your daughter seldom, sometimes, or often emotionally upset following a period of time on social media?
How You Can Help
The most important thing you can do, according to DeGaetano, is foster a strong sense of self-esteem before your daughter begins to use social media. The more confident your child is prior to using social media, the less likely they’ll be negatively impacted.
In the event that your daughter does start to feel negative impact, there are ways to help her recover. Focusing on autonomy, competency and relatedness will help your daughter build herself back up.
Create autonomy by enabling her to take on chores or activities where she’s in control and responsible. Increase feelings of competence by focusing on areas outside of technology where she might excel, anything from sports, to babysitting, cooking to art, will help showcase their abilities.
Encourage relatedness by fostering in-person relationships, which can be an increase in time spent with friends or family.
Since eliminating social media may be unrealistic, DeGaetano says this approach can help ensure your daughter has a healthy relationship with social media, “This three-pronged approach is a dynamo for supporting healthy habits with social media because they address necessary internal changes for the girl to make healthy social media choices because she wants to, not because her parents are forcing her to.”