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Teenagers spend so much time online that even they are worried about it. More than 50 percent of teens in the U.S. say they spend too much time on their phones, and 41 percent say they overdo it on social media. The majority of these teens have real-life face time with their friends in school as well, which makes a parent wonder: Are homeschooled teens using the Internet even more than regular teens? It’s possible, which also increases their risk of being bullied online.
In traditional schools, there are ways to handle cyberbullying that involves school administrators. For example, Text 2 Stop It is an innovative solution to bullying for traditional students. Services like this let students report bullying incidents, and then the conduct can be reported to school administrators. When it comes to homeschooled teens, though, parents are on their own. They have to pay close attention to their teen’s behavior and intervene if they feel their child is being bullied.
Socialization in Homeschool vs. Public School
Homeschooled teens have a lot going for them, and the internet is a phenomenal tool for their education. They can learn at their own pace, choose the topics they want to learn more about, and create a flexible schedule that also allows for sports, apprenticeships or internships. On the other hand, it can be more difficult for some homeschool students to make friends or get involved with extracurricular activities.
Fortunately, the internet can help with that as well, as it also provides a way for homeschoolers to stay in touch with their peers. Homeschooled adolescents often spend less time with peers their age, so going online can fill in some of that gap.
While well-socialized teens aren’t stunted socially, homeschoolers who don’t have enough socialization can face problems. For example, they may develop social phobias, making it difficult to go out in public or connect with people, or they may feel or behave awkwardly in public settings. Getting teens involved in an array of activities and then letting them communicate with their friends online can help them build social skills. This experience can help them appear more confident in work or life situations later in life, enabling them to achieve higher levels of success.
More Time Online Leads to Increased Risk of Cyberbullying
While homeschooling is a solution to bullying for some families, it doesn’t completely solve the problem. If homeschooled teens are online frequently, they’re still at risk of being cyberbullied. It’s wonderful when homeschooled teens can interact with their peers through their laptop, smartphone, tablet, or video game system, but this also opens up numerous paths for bullying. Since cyberbullying occurs over devices instead of out in public, it can be difficult for other people to detect — especially parents who aren’t on social media every day.
Without the balance of going to school every day to be surrounded by friends, it’s possible that homeschooled teens who are being cyberbullied will feel a lack of support from their peers. As a result, they may become more secluded. On top of the shame and embarrassment of being cyberbullied, homeschooled teens are already more isolated than traditional students, and that isolation can easily grow due to cyberbullying.
Signs of Cyberbullying
Nearly 60 percent of teens in the U.S. have been harassed or bullied online, and approximately the same percentage say that it’s a huge problem for their peers. The unfortunate truth is that your teen is more likely to be cyberbullied than not. This makes it imperative to learn the signs of cyberbullying so that you can quickly recognize it and take action.
Here are some common signs of cyberbullying:
- Difference in behavior around an electronic device. For example, they may stop using their phone or seem uneasy or nervous when around it.
- Mood changes, including anxiety, depression, or frustration, that are out of the ordinary for the teen.
- Poor performance on schoolwork. This may happen because the student is having trouble focusing on their work.
- Staying home more and wanting to be around family more than normal. They may also be nervous about leaving the house or doing things with friends.
- Stops talking about friends or activities that they’re usually involved with.
Cyberbullying affects teenagers emotionally, psychologically, and physically. While they may not experience all of the negative effects simultaneously, if you notice one or more of these signs, it’s worth it to find out if bullying is to blame.
How to Handle Cyberbullying
Once you’re sure that your teen is being cyberbullied, here’s what you should do:
- Keep track of any and all evidence of the bullying. If the situation worsens, you’ll need the evidence to show the police.
- Report the incident on the platform where it’s occurring. For example, if your teen is being bullied on Facebook, you can report the activity right from the comment.
- Advise your teen to stop responding to comments and messages. Engaging with the bully will only provoke the situation. Find a way to stop engaging while still monitoring the bullying — for example, the teen can block the bully but a friend can monitor what happens.
- Learn your rights. If your child has been cyberbullied, you may be able to file a lawsuit. Find out about local and state laws against cyberbullying and contact a lawyer if you need additional help.
Practically every school has dealt with bullying at one time or another, and homeschools aren’t exempt from the problem. Even though your teens are homeschooled, that doesn’t mean you can’t report the issue to the administrators at the bully’s school. While you may face issues because the students are in separate schools, it’s a first step to solving the problem — and it could save other students from being bullied as well.