How cyberbullying impacts a child's self image

Doctor's say today's kids face challenges not seen 20 years ago

SIOUX CITY, Iowa - The start of another school year can mean stress filled days for students. Especially those targeted by bullies.  In this weeks CyberSafe Parent report, why online technology can mean instantaneous harassment that never seems to go away.

Twenty years ago if a student got picked on, the harassment didn't last long.  Kids were riding their bike home having dinner and the next day nobody remembered because social media wasn't there to remind folks.

But health professionals like Clinical Psychologist Dr. Raul Sanchez say today's kids face a different challenge.

"Today, if that happens, you're roasted for 24 hours if not 36 hours or more, and unless something huge happens, you're the story, and if that's negative and bad attention, you really start to believe it. And, that's the problem with many kids, they believe they are who others say they are," said Dr. Sanchez.

The doctor works with students and parents alike at Renewing the Mind Clinic.  He says anxiety and depression rates for middle school students have both doubled in the last five years and what classmates are saying about each other online is partly to blame.

"I see my identity through the looking glass everyone else sees me through. So I know who I am because you told me who I am.  And if it's negative it sticks and kids can't get rid of it," added Dr. Sanchez.  The doctor says it's a case of you are vs I am.

So what can a parent do to make sure their child develops a good self image?
Encourage participation in multiple activities and don't follow the popular trend of being activity specific.

"If I'm good at band, and you rip on me for being bad at football, I can just say, "Dude, I'm first chair, get off of me."  But if you don't have an identity and don't do well and you're roasting me, I have nowhere to fall," said Dr. Sanchez.

The doctor tells me keeping kids accountable is also important to building a good self image.  We'll share why and pass along other important information he has for kids and parents alike in next week's report.

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