Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 3rd 2014 Contents families aren t able to have family dinners together,
but that doesn t mean the kids are out of luck or that
communication can t happen, he said.
"The message that comes through for us is to talk
to your kids," Elgar said. "Unless you take time to
check in, a lot goes undetected." (Reuters Health)
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Like victims of face-to-face bullying, kids who
experience Internet bullying are vulnerable to mental
health and substance use problems---but spending
more time communicating with their parents may
help protect them from these harmful consequences,
a new study suggests.
For example, the researchers found, regular family
dinners seemed to help kids cope with online bullying.
But they say talk time with parents in cars or other
settings can also help protect against the effects of
"In a way, cyberbullying is more insidious because
it s so hard to detect," said lead author Frank J Elgar
of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill
University in Montreal.
"It s hard for teachers and parents to pick up on,"
Elgar told Reuters Health by phone.
He and his team used voluntary, anonymous survey
data from more than 18,000 teens at 49 schools in
About one in five students said they d been bullied
on the Internet or by text messaging at least once over
the past year.
"The good news is that most of the kids in this
sample from Wisconsin had not been cyberbullied,"
Cyberbullying was more common for girls than for
boys, for kids who d been victims of face-to-face bul-
lying, and for those who themselves had bullied other
kids in person. Cyberbullying tended to increase as
students got older.
Youngsters who d been cyberbullied were more likely
to also report mental health problems like anxiety,
self-harm, thoughts of suicide, fighting, vandalism
and substance use problems, according to results in
JAMA Pediatrics September 1.
Almost 20 per cent of the kids reported an episode
of depression, while around five per cent reported sui-
cide attempts or misuse of over-the-counter or pre-
Teens who were often cyberbullied were more than
twice as likely to have been drunk, fought, vandalised
property, or had suicidal thoughts, and were more
than four times as likely to have misused drugs than
those who were never cyberbullied.
One survey question asked how many times each
week the teen ate the evening meal with his or her
As the number of weekly family dinners increased,
the differences in mental health issues for kids who
were or were not cyberbullied decreased.
"It s hard for parents to know where kids are spending
time online on their smartphone, laptop or other
device," said Catherine P Bradshaw of the Johns Hop-
kins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Bradshaw wrote a commentary that was published
in the same issue of the journal, along with the
"We don t know exactly what those parents were
talking about at dinner, but we do know they were
spending more time together face to face," she told
Reuters Health by phone.
Family discourse can happen in many settings,
including at dinner or while driving around in the car,
"If parents want to try to figure out how many
nights a week should I turn off the TV and spend
time with my kids, it s nice to see data on this," she
Parents who have an opportunity to talk to their
kids about bullying problems should emphasise that
it wasn t the victim s fault and that you shouldn t hit
back or retaliate, Bradshaw said.
"The more contact and communication you have
with young people, the more opportunities they have
to express problems they have and discuss coping
strategies," Elgar said. "Essentially the relationships
between victimisation and all other mental health out-
comes were lessened with more frequent family din-
Family dinners are a proxy indicative of a range of
other contextual factors that affect kids relating to
family contact open communication, he said. Many
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
Family dinners may help kids cope with cyberbullying
About one in five students said they'd been
bullied on the Internet or by text messaging
at least once over the past year.
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