Digital technology has its upside and downsides. Our children are considered ‘Digital Natives’ i.e. able to navigate smart phones, tablets, computers, videogames and the internet. I look at my own son, Darragh who is 5yrs now and was able to manage games on the phone from 3yrs, he can change settings and leave me befuddled. Many others including me are Digital Immigrants, these are people who did not grow up with technology and adapted to it over time with varying degrees of competence. Finally there are the Digital Dodo’s, i.e. those who are not interested in adapting to technology and whose cousin’s are the Digital Ostrich’s who bury their head in the sand.
For me I see this digital divide in my therapy room. In a way it saddens me that a raft of free and excellent resources are unavailable to the Digital Dodo’s & Ostrich’s examples include;
Free Online CBT course for Depression/Anxiety: www.moodgym.anu.ed.au
Free Online Quality Information: www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk
Nevertheless there is a dark side to this technology. I am reminded of a sentence that I use when giving workshops for parents and teachers of teenagers; “You can’t control your teenager, but you can influence them. And if the parent fails to influence the teenager, the world will CONTROL the teenager, and the world is not concerned about what is right or fair.”
And so it is with technology particularly in the area of cyberbullying. Bullying can happen anywhere. Talking to John an adult client of mine when he was describing the terrible bullying he experienced in school he noted “At least when school finished at 4.00” it was over, I got a break until the next day”. Not so with cyberbullying where there is no break.
Most kids have been teased by a brother or sister or a friend at some point. When it’s done in a playful, friendly, and mutual way, and both kids find it funny, then it’s fine. But when teasing becomes hurtful, unkind, and constant, it crosses the line into bullying and needs to stop.
Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumours about them. It’s important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that kids have to “tough out.” The effects can be serious and affect kids’ sense of self-worth and future relationships.
What is cyberbullying, exactly?
Cyberbullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by individuals or groups using mobile phone (voice or text messages) or the internet (email, postings, Instant Messages, etc). Most often cyberbullies spread rumours, make threats or harass. It can include written messages, photographs, videos or voice messages. This type of bullying is just as harmful and upsetting as face to face bullying.
Tactics Most Often Used By Teen Cyberbullies
- Pretend they are other people online to trick others
- Trick children into revealing personal information
- Send or forward mean text messages
- Spread lies and rumours about victims
- Post pictures of victims without their consent
The people who are bullying may choose to set up ‘groups’ in an online social network. This type of cyberbullying is referred to as “mobbing” where a target is selected and bullied (mobbed) by a pack of people. How cruel and relentless. Every group has a ringleader who incites supporters, copycats and unenlightened, inexperienced, immature or emotionally needy individuals to continue the cyberbullying.
The Impact of Cyberbullying
Being subjected to bullying causes you to feel: upset, threatened, humiliated, and vulnerable. Bullying can cause physical, mental and emotional pain and can make you feel alone, scared, angry, confused or sad. All of these may affect your emotional life.
Many people who experience bullying may fear reprisals if they tell someone. This can become harder as people grow older. They become more and more isolated, experience depression and, in extreme cases, can harm themselves or attempt suicide.
- Teach your children to respect others and to take a stand against bullying of all kinds
- Be careful online and remember that words have the power to heal and hurt.
- Ask yourself, could these words be picked up the wrong way or cause upset? Is this photo suitable for lots of people to see?
- If you post something online and ‘comments’ or ‘chat’ becomes cruel, remove your posts so you are not part of a negative situation.
- Know that you are as responsible for saying things online or by text in cyberspace as well as in the real world. If it comes down to it, the source of the abuse, the computer or phone being used, can be identified by the Gardaí.
TOP TEN TIPS OF WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BEEN CYBERBULLIED.
Mary 12 years says to her mum “I’ve been getting mean emails from some girls in my class. Sometimes I get abusive text messages from numbers I don’t recognise. What should I do?
- TELL – Tell someone. Talk to a parent, teacher, friend or someone you can trust.
- BLOCK – Keep your details private and block people. Get a new phone sim and make your new number private.
- LOG – Keep a log. While messages may be cruel, you will need to have some proof of what has been happening. This will be helpful if the Gardaí or someone in authority need to help. If you don’t want to keep seeing the messages you could put texts in ‘saved messages’. Forward emails onto the adult you have talked to.
- If you are receiving abusive texts, give your phone to an adult to monitor for an evening or over a weekend. Don’t reply to abusive emails or texts. Giving a response may make the situation worse.
- If you are on a social network, change your ‘privacy settings’ so that your web pages are secure and only accessed by people you know. Check the privacy settings. If you have been getting nasty IMs (instant messages), change your online status to ‘hidden’ so other internet users will not know you’re online.
- Be careful about the passwords you use online. Keep this private. You could change your password every month or so to be extra safe.
- If you know the user name of the person bullying, you can block them from your profile.
- Start fresh by setting up a new email address, user name or profile. Ask someone for help if you’re not sure how.
- Don’t add people you don’t know to your list of online friends. Be wary of strangers online.
- Log off. You can choose to walk away by logging off or switching off. By doing this, you will feel in control of the situation.
LOTS of us go through life pretending to be someone else — hiding behind a mask, afraid to be real — but it’s never too late to take that disguise off, according to RTÉ’s Operation Transformation clinical psychologist, Dr Eddie Murphy.
In between that mask and the ‘real’ person is a gap that is a breeding ground for negative emotions — which is why people end up struggling with a variety of issues in life.
In his new book Becoming Your Real Self: A practical toolkit for managing life’s challenges, he lists those main emotional struggles as stress, depression, anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and emotional eating.
And while offering readers a hopeful message with self-help tools to change, he argues that being emotionally unwell is the underlying factor to a lot of physical illness and pain, with 50% of all GP visits being psychological in origin.
For older people who may be afraid to seek out therapy, he has a particular message of hope: “Some of the biggest changes I have seen made are from those who come later in life.”
He mentions one 78-year-old woman who had been so unhappy she told him she had a rope in her shed, ready to use when the opportunity arose. “This woman had experienced a lot of trauma in her life and had been hospitalised over the years for depression. She came to therapy because of memory loss — which can be linked to anxiety — and she also presented with low mood.
“She spoke of being hurt by an adult as a child and had been treated for depression all her life, when it was in fact the trauma that was there all along. When she opened up about it, the depression lifted significantly.”
With this woman’s treatment, Murphy said he applied some of the tools from his book — building an authentic relationship, listening to her life story, sifting through her thinking patterns, and encouraging her to be compassionate to herself.
His book, Dr Murphy says, is an attempt to give readers an opportunity to be privy to what happens in his therapy room; slowing down, taking off the mask, so that they can “look inside”.
“The work in the therapy rooms is about shifting people away from an array of negative emotions — fear, sadness, low confidence, stress, anger, low self-esteem — to a place where they are free, authentic, contented, powerful, confident, humble, wise, and compassionate,” he says.
However, quite often older people need a trigger to get them to cross that therapy threshold. Unlike younger people who tend to Google issues and have a desire to “fix it”, he says, those aged 50 and upwards, who might for instance have had bouts of depression, hold the belief that it’s part of their life; that change isn’t possible.
In the book, he offers “pathways” of transformation, from stress to relaxation; from depression to hope; anxiety to freedom; anger to calm; low self-esteem to self-worth; social anxiety to confidence; and emotional eating to self-control.
Many present with grief or loss late in life. It could be the suicide of an adult child or the loss of a partner or parent.
“Then there are parents who are carrying the stresses of their older children. They may have taken out a loan on their behalf — very prevalent at the moment. Or the employed adult children who aren’t contributing to the household and the mother gets roared at when she challenges the situation.”
This involves “teasing out a pathway to assertiveness, through the complex family issues”.
“There are also women who are left caring for their grandchildren. They love them, but they don’t want to be committed to minding them — but they don’t know how to negotiate the situation. They don’t know how to express it, so they suppress it and then they get quite angry.
But for the many who suffer in silence and pain, Dr Murphy says: “The key is that it’s never too late. With older people who have mental and emotional issues, they sometimes have put them into a box and wrapped it up and put it into a back room.
“They are afraid to open it up because they have come from a history — from their parents or grandparents, where there was a stigma attached to being unwell. And they definitely won’t go near it because they are afraid it will only get worse.
“However older people do very well in therapy. They can bring wisdom, resources, a capacity to be more reflective, and good social supports.”
And of course a starting point to gently easing that mask off might be to read his forthcoming self-help guide.
* Becoming Your Real Self, published by Penguin Ireland, €16.99, is available on February 26