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From America to Indonesia, the headlines read, “Facebook is Causing 20 Percent of Today’s Divorces.”

“When I heard the statistic, I did some research to find its source,” says Jason Krafsky. Krafsky co-authored Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife, Kelli. “It turns out that an online divorce firm in the UK sent out a press release stating that Facebook was cited in 1-in-5 divorce petitions. What got lost in the hundreds of articles it sparked was the research came from only their divorce petition database.”

To add fuel to the fire, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members. They claimed that 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys saw an increase in cases using social networking evidence during the past five years. Despite the media hype, you didn’t hear the whole truth there, either. In reality, not all divorce attorneys completed the survey – just AAML members.

“There were additional pieces that created even more confusion,” Krafsky says. “Suffice it to say this was like a big game of worldwide gossip and by the time the big media guns picked up the story the headline read, ‘Facebook Blamed for One in Five Divorces in U.S.’ The truth is, there is no valid research, study or collection of data at this point that accurately reveals how many divorces have been caused by Facebook. Until someone does legitimate research, trying to attach a number or percentage to what is happening only fuels an urban myth that is blazing out of control.”

Clearly, Facebook impacts relationships of all kinds. Some marriages are breaking apart due to Facebook-related activity. Some married people use Facebook to live out their midlife crisis. For others, unexpected feelings and emotions when friending or interacting with an old flame catches them off guard. It can happen to the strongest of marriages.

“I remember the day my wife walked into the room and said, ‘Guess who I just friended on Facebook?’ I asked who, and she said, ‘My first love.’

“There was something about that statement that just hit me wrong,” Krafsky shares. “I didn’t think Kelli would intentionally do anything inappropriate, but something in my gut said this wasn’t a good thing. It was shortly thereafter that we had a discussion about boundaries on Facebook to protect our marriage. We decided to unfriend past exes. This scenario prompted the writing of our book.”

The Krafskys warn people that if you don’t have good boundaries, social networking sites are dangerous places to hang out.

“Couples need to talk face-to-face and set up guidelines for their online time to protect their relationship from cyber-threats,” Krafsky says. “It is not enough to have good intentions. Most affairs do not start because someone says to himself, ‘I think I’ll have an affair.’ They start out very innocently.

“Don’t fool yourself. You cannot friend an old flame and not take a trip down memory lane, thinking about what you did together in high school. We never forget that adolescent romantic love. Limit your time online and focus on taking your marriage relationship to the next level. While Facebook may not be the cause of 20 percent of all divorces, what some people are unknowingly doing through Facebook is undermining their marriage and putting their family at risk.”

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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True or False?

  • Cyberbullying victims are at increased risk for traditional bullying victimization, substance use and school problems.
  • Victims of cyberbullying suffer from anger, frustration and sadness.
  • Most victims of cyberbullying tell an adult about their experience.
  • Victims report that they are primarily cyberbullied by strangers.

If you answered “true” for the first two statements and “false” for the last two, you are correct.

News stories abound about young people and bullying. One of the most widely-known incidents is about Megan Meier, a then 13-year-old from Missouri. She became online friends with a person she thought was a new boy in town. The “friend” was actually a group of young people and adults who plotted to humiliate Megan because of a broken friendship with another girl. When Megan discovered the truth, she became distraught and later committed suicide.

Cyberbullying is defined as using the computer or other electronic devices to intimidate, threaten or humiliate another. It most commonly takes place on the Internet among students from a given school or neighborhood.

Researchers and co-directors of the Cyberbullying Research Center, Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja, collected data from more than 15,000 youth regarding their personal cyberbullying experiences. They found that:

  • Five percent of the youth they interviewed claimed to be scared for their own safety.
  • On average, 25 percent of youth have been a victim of cyberbullying.
  • Among this percentage, mean or hurtful comments, and spreading rumors were the most common forms of cyberbullying.
  • More than half of study participants feel that cyberbullying is as bad as, or worse than bullying in real life.
  • 41 percent of victims do not tell anyone in their off-screen lives about their abuse, but 38 percent told an online friend.
  • 16 percent admitted to bullying another individual online.
  • Most of the bullying offenders said they consider bullying to be fun or instructive; such as a way to strengthen their victims.

Your child uses cell phones, emails, instant messaging, websites, blogs, text messages and other methods to communicate electronically. All of them present a potential cyberbullying risk to your child.

What Do Parents Need to Know?

The impact of cyberbullying can be devastating. Cyber victimization can cause poor grades, emotional spirals, poor self-esteem, repeated school absences, depression and in some cases, suicide. These outcomes are similar to those of real-life bullying, except with cyberbullying there is often no escape.

Young people used to be able to avoid the “bully” once school was out. Today’s technology now makes it almost impossible to escape. Since few parents closely monitor their child’s digital use, it is far easier for bullies to get away with bullying online than in person. And as the quiz pointed out, kids rarely tell their parents about the bullying.

What Can Parents Do?

  • Establish that all rules for interacting appropriately with people in real life apply online.
  • Explain what cyberbullying is and why it is unacceptable to bully or to allow bullying to continue.
  • Talk with your teen about the nature of REAL friendships.
  • Encourage your child to talk with you any time they believe they or someone they know is dealing with a bully.
  • Model appropriate technology use.
  • Write a technology contract that includes any form of technology used in your home.

Cyberbullying can be a serious threat to the well-being of your child, but the best plan of attack is to be proactive. Being ignorant about technology in this day and age won’t cut it, so you’ll want to educate yourself as well as your children. As the saying goes, information is power.

For tips on parenting get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen” Download Here.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV for more on this topic!