Cyberbullying has become an increasingly serious issue in recent years as digital devices have become more accessible to kids and teens. In fact, by the time children are in high school, very few bullying incidents happen only in-person, with most involving at least some online interaction.
Cyberbullying is similar to traditional bullying and has been defined as a person or group intentionally using digital media to threaten, harass, or intimidate someone.1 It can occur via any social online platform, including social media, blog sites, chat groups, and video chats (Zoom, Facetime, etc.), as well as videogame platforms, texting, and traditional phone calls. Not surprisingly, concerns about cyberbullying have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with kids and teens spending more time online for both school and social activities.
Studies have shown that kids and teens with learning disorders and/or ADHD are at especially high risk for all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying.2,3 This increased risk appears to be tied to feelings of low self-esteem, loneliness, underdeveloped social skills, and difficulty reading social cues. As is the case with so many aspects of parenting a child or teen with a learning disorder or ADHD, you are your child’s best advocate and source of support when it comes to cyberbullying.
No one can fully prevent a child or teen from experiencing cyberbullying, but you can help your child become more resilient by building up their strengths and social support and by intervening quickly if a bullying incident occurs. Cyberbullying is serious, and it’s not something that any parent should have to deal with alone. Turn to other parents, school professionals, and mental health professionals to get the help and support that you and your child need.
1Elizabeth Englander, Edward Donnerstein, Robin Kowalski, Carolyn A. Lin, Katalin Parti. (2017). Defining Cyberbullying. Pediatrics, 140 (Supplement 2), S148-S151.
2Kowalski, R., & Fedina, C. (2011). Cyber bullying in ADHD and Asperger Syndrome Populations. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5(3), 1201-1208.
3Mishna F. (2003). Learning Disabilities and Bullying: Double Jeopardy. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 2003;36(4), 336-347.
Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.
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