Elizabeth, 13 years old, gets home from school after a difficult day of bullying. One of her peers took an embarrasing photo of her and posted it on Instagram for all of her classmates to see. She goes home and makes an effort to talk to her parents about her situation at school but her parents are on their phone and do not engage her in conversation and so she just goes to her room by herself and hides.
The young girl at this moment feels rejected by her peers as well as her parents, therefore, she starts to lose interest in activites that she once found pleasurable, loses her appetite, wants to sleep more than usual and is very irritable with her parents and siblings. Elizabeth has also found that she now struggles to focus on her school work and because of this her grades have declined. These are some of the most common symptoms of depression that many parents tend to ignore because they think it is just a phase in adolescence and that their teen will just “grow out of it”. It is very possible that they may learn to cope on their own and “grow out of it,” or it can worsen.
Effects of Technology on Adolescents
Children and teenagers today encounter a unique set of challenges that previous generations did not experience before. One of these challenges is being a click away from difficulties as well as being vulnerable to the lasting effects that technology can have. In my experience, it is clear that the effects of bullying are being amplified by social media. Before social media, kids may have still experienced bullying, however, they would eventually get over the event that triggered bullying and move on to something or someone else. In this day and age, kids have cellphones with cameras and they are able to record anything as well as use photoshop to amplify the bullying experience.
Mental Health Concerns
This makes it difficult for the child that is a victim of this type of bullying. It is as though it never ends and it takes longer for the event to go away because it is recorded and it is in public view. When a child or adolescent is a victim of bullying this can trigger symptoms that can be a sign of depression, anxiety and some children experience suicidal ideation, which means they have thoughts of not wanting to live anymore, which can be passive (only have thoughts) or it can be active (having a plan). For many people, it is easy to ignore these signs and think that it will all just go away or that it is phase that the child is going through. It is crucial not to ignore the child or teen and it is important to find professional help for them if the adults in their life are struggling to help them. It is a very serious issue and the reality that many children and adolecents live in.
How to Help
I have years of experince working in the neighboring city of North Hollywood where I started to encounter these types of concerns that children had. The way this presents is by the child not wanting to go to school, avoiding responsibilities, and wanting to isolate. This is not an issue that only happens in North Hollywood but it is where I was able to see this the most because it was where most of my clients were. I noticed that the most helpful thing their parents did was to get them help. If parents take too long to respond, the child or adolescent may be more resistant to the treatment. It is important to act quickly and get them the help they need. Also, one of the easiest things that a parent can do to help their child is to provide them with one on one time free from electronic devices, which means no cellphones, tv, video games, tablets, etc. If the child or adolescent can see that their parents have a genuine interest in them, they may not close themselves off completely and may be more open to help.
Wendy Salazar is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the city of Burbank. Please contact with furhter questions or to schedule an appointmentcontact me.