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Years ago, people actually had to get up to answer the phone, the computer occasionally used to write papers, and the television only had three channels.

Now, people answer the phone everywhere, including the dinner table and the bathroom. While people write papers on computers, they often spend more time on Facebook or the Internet than actually accomplishing something.

And only three channels? Those days are over. On-screen viewing options are virtually limitless.

So how does all this technology impact families?

  • A 2010 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey showed that 1 in 5 American divorces involve Facebook. And, 81 percent of divorce lawyers have reported a spike in cases that use social media for evidence.

  • One pastor even asked his congregants to quit using Facebook. Why? It’s because he saw so many couples experiencing marital problems because of connections to old flames through social media.

  • Research conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) showed that nearly a quarter of teens have communicated with a boyfriend or girlfriend hourly between midnight and 5 a.m. via cell phone or texting. One in 6 communicated 10 or more times an hour through the night.

  • Many experts claim that texting contributes to sleep deprivation because most kids sleep with their phone within reach. It’s hard for them to resist checking the notifications.

  • According to a 2010 Pew Internet study, fully 72% of all teens – or 88% of teen cell phone users — text. Among all teens, their frequent texting has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends, including face-to-face interactions. For example, teens use texting to enhance friendships, handle a conflict, begin and end romantic relationships and even to mediate difficult conversations.

  • The average person watches four hours of television daily, which equals six months of eight-hour days. 

From family dinners and vacations to date nights and even Christmas morning, families are being slammed from every direction with technology, all in the name of staying connected. But, is staying connected with the outside world as important as staying connected with the people closest to you?

Perhaps one of the best things we can do is truly connect with each other. Families who are engaged with each other actually do better in every area of life.

Consider these questions:

  • Can you establish “no technology” time zones? For example, no cell phones or television at the dinner table – parents included. Maybe teens can leave phones in the kitchen at night and computers in public spaces. Perhaps time limits for social media could be helpful?

  • Would you rather your child participate in family game night or play a game on Xbox alone instead?

  • Is a family meal more constructive than family members eating on their own in front of a screen?

  • When your child applies for a job, will he be able to verbally communicate?

Technology is a lot like money. Families can either learn how to control how much technology invades their world or they can let it control them. Which would you prefer?

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 an in-depth look on this topic!

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!