With the increased use of social media, more children and teenagers are becoming the targets of threatening and destructive online comments from their peers. Known as cyberbullying, this criticism often leads to feelings of depression, anxiety or fearfulness in victims.

Maria Aguilo-Seara, DO, Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center’s child and adolescent psychiatrist, provides guidance to parents and others on helping children overcome cyberbullying. Please note: The questions below were created as examples of common parent concerns.

Parent: My son is being harassed online by his classmates. He says he is doing fine, although I have noticed a change in his behavior. What should I do?

Dr. Aguilo-Seara: Continue establishing open lines of communication with your son so that he feels comfortable talking to you, especially when he needs help. Reassure him that it is natural to feel upset, and let him know you are there to support him. You may need to set limits on using social media and electronic devices.

Parent: My daughter gets angry easily and often lashes out online at her friends. She recently posted a message saying she would hurt one of her friends if she did not do as my daughter asked. How do I get help?

Dr. Aguilo-Seara: If your daughter is constantly angry or has exhibited threatening behaviors to others, it is important to seek help immediately from a behavioral health professional. It’s normal for children and teens to experience a range of emotions; however, if your child’s behavior seems dangerous or you are concerned for her safety, please take her to the nearest hospital emergency room or call 911.

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Dr. Aguilo-Seara is one of several psychiatrists participating in a Nov. 9, 2018, symposium exploring cyberbullying and gun violence in schools. The discussion is part of an annual collaboration between Adventist HealthCare and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department.

 

If you or a loved one needs help, call 800-204-8600 to schedule a consultation.