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Cyberbullying — Distress beyond the playground

Cyberbullying.As children and teens increase their technology and social media use, they become more susceptible to being targets of a relatively new form of bullying — cyberbullying. We are past the days of negative interactions that both start and end on the playground; our children continue to be victimized by their peers outside of school as well.

In observation of National Bullying Prevention Month, today’s blog comes from Adam Margol, PsyD, a staff therapist at The Family Institute.

Estimates suggest that over 90% of adolescents are online, and those adolescents are spending close to a third of their waking hours using electronic devices (Lenhart et al., 2010 and Gerson & Rappaport, 2011). Due to adolescent’s constant access to electronic devices (including popular social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat), the opportunities for peer interactions to continue beyond the school day are extended, oftentimes lending themselves to cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying, or cybervictimization, is associated with negative outcomes such as low self-esteem, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and suicidal ideation (Landoll et al., 2015). In the Youth Internet Safety Survey, 93% of cyberbullied youth reported that the bullying made them feel sad or afraid to go to school (Raskauskas & Stoltz, 2007). The impact of negative peer interactions online is profound, which opens essential dialogue between children, parents, and their schools to help support our kids and to help them feel safe.

The question is — can it be prevented? The likelihood of adolescents refraining from ALL social media use is unrealistic. What can parents do to protect their children from cyberbullies?

  • Start the conversation with your kids about cyberbullying. Suggestions for starting the dialogue include asking:
    • What social media platforms do you use? How do you decide what to post or who to follow? Does anyone else know your password?
    • Have you ever gotten into a fight with someone online? Have you ever said anything to anyone online that you wish you could take back? Has anyone ever said anything to you online that made you upset or hurt your feelings?
    • Have you ever heard of cyberbullying? What does bullying include for you? Do you know anyone that has ever been bullied online? What happened in that situation and what was the outcome? Are you or any of your friends afraid to attend school or are uncomfortable at school because of what has happened online outside of school?
    • Has anyone teased, attacked, or spread rumors about you online? Has anyone ever asked you to send pictures of yourself to them? Has anyone asked you to send naked pictures of yourself? How did you respond or how would you respond if that were to happen?
  • Ensure that your children can identify supports to utilize if they do experience cyberbullying (e.g. parents, teachers, school counselors, therapists, etc.).
  • Let your children know that they can come to you for support if they were to ever experience any form of cyberbullying.

For more information about cyberbullying, visit:

Adam Margol, PsyD
, is a Staff Therapist at The Family Institute. He has experience working with children, adolescents and young adults with emotion regulation issues, social skills deficits, school issues, behavioral issues, learning disabilities/challenges, executive functioning deficits, ADHD, depression, anxiety, aggression, and developmental disabilities.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Learn more about our services on our website.


Finkelhor, D., Mitchell, K. J., & Wolak, J. (2000). Online victimization: a report on the nation’s youth. Alexandria, VA: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Gerson, R., & Rappaport, N. (2011). Cyber cruelty: understanding and preventing the new bullying. Adolescent Psychiatry, 1, 67-71.

Landoll, R. R., La Greca, A. M., Lai, B. S., Chan, S. F., & Herge, W. M. (2015). Cyber victimization by peers: Prospective associations with adolescent social anxiety and depressive symptoms. Journal of Adolescence, 42, 77–86.

Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social media and young adults: Social media and mobile internet use among teens and young adults. Pew Internet and American Life Project, February 2010. Retrieved from

Raskauskas, J., & Stoltz, A. D. (2007). Involvement in traditional and electronic bullying among adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 43, 564-575.


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