Cyberbullying growing concern as kids are online more during COVID-19 pandemic; what parents should look out for

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Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 7:36 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Cyberbullying is a growing concern to local health officials as kids are online more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and The Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs wanted to raise awareness of a concerning trend they’re seeing with children growing up in an online world during the pandemic.

“Mainly we’re seeing a lot of stress, anxiety, suicidal idealization and things that can be a byproduct of bullying. We also know that perpetrators of bullying have the same impacts of their emotions and self-esteem," said Tom Caughlan of The Children’s Hospital.

The local hospital has seen a 39 percent increase in behavioral health visits between August and September, seeing co-occurring reports of negative interactions with peers over social media, including cyberbullying. The hospital cannot directly related the increase in health visits to cyberbullying, but the timing aligns with school starting back up as kids are socializing again face-to-face.

“They’re facing a screen constantly and every app and every game that they access also has a chat feature, also has other ways that peers can anonymously access them and possible effect their emotional state," said Caughlan.

Social media preys on a reward system. The hospital says each “like” that a child gets on social media is a hit of dopamine that is similar to gambling or drug use. The Children’s Hospital is seeing these concerns mainly in 11-year-olds and up as they navigate social media and online activities.

The hospital says about one third of children and teens experience bullying, and cyber bullying is a concern that parents should be even more aware of during the pandemic.

Here’s what parents should be on the lookout for:

-Know what your child is accessing online, talk to them about it

-Mood changes or isolation behaviors from your child

-Your child not coming out of their room or spending too much time online

For more detailed information from the Children’s Hospital, click here.

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