New Study Reveals Shocking Trends For Teens On Social Media

Monday, November 24th 2014, 11:03 pm
By: News 9

A new study revealed an alarming trend about what our kids are witnessing on social media sites and it's something parents will not ‘like.'

Sixteen-year-old Brittany Blake went to school each day on guard.

"It was like a battleground," Blake said. "A school should be a safe place and it wasn't for me."

Writing poetry was her refuge as she detailed her daily clashes with bullies.

"People were always pushing me into lockers, knock me down, knock stuff out of my hands," she said.

That was in middle school. And by the time she got to Westmoore High School in Moore, it got worse.

"I'd be walking to one of my classes and someone would push me against the wall or I would be going to lunch and a guy hit me in the face," she said.

It was physical abuse she documented with pictures, but kept secret from her family.

"We live with the girl every day and we didn't have a clue," said Vicky Blake, Brittany's mother.

Vicky said looking back she didn't pay attention to the signs.

"She'd wear heavy makeup I guess and long sleeves when it was warm outside, said it was cold in the classrooms, so she'd wear a jacket, to hide her bruises, and we were oblivious to it," Vicky said.

Brittany eventually left school and started a homebound program, but the bullying followed her, on social media.

"It was just jokes about my weight or my preferences, or just music style and my friend choices and it was 'go kill yourself,'” she recalled.

The abuse caused severe anxiety and depression in Brittany and even suicidal thoughts.

"Sometimes they believe what the other people are saying about them," said Teresa Deck, a counselor at Sunbeam Family Services.

Deck said words can be just as harmful as physical violence.

"It affects their self-esteem it can affect their school work, their wanting to attend or not wanting to attend school to avoid some of this and it can have a damaging impact on children and their self-worth," Deck said.

A new study called ‘Teens and the Screen' by the internet security company McAfee revealed 87 percent of kids have witnessed cyberbullying. That's three times more than in 2013 and of those kids, 26 percent of them are the victims.

"They're constantly hooked in," Deck said. "Everything is electronic and they are hooked in, they go to bed with it, they sleep with it, so it's 24/7."

The around-the-clock is mostly over looks, sexual orientation, religion and race, according to the study. But the study also showed another shocking trend, that kids are sharing too much personal information, with 30 percent giving out their phone numbers and 14 percent sharing their address online.

"It just shows how prevalent that cyberbullying has become and how important it is for parents to stay tuned in to what their children are doing on their phones and the internet and social media," Deck said.

Brittany said she is slowly healing from the abuse she suffered, now listening to other victims through online counseling websites like Seven Cups of Tea. 

"I've experienced that and I know other people have too, but to know that I'm not alone and there are other people who deal with it, makes me feel reassured that the people doing it are the ones who need help," Brittany said.

Brittany said she went to teachers and nothing was done to help her. We contacted Moore Public Schools about it and they could not comment specifically on Brittany's case, but did release its policy on bullying. 

Read the bullying policy for Moore Public Schools.

Top 5 recommendations for parents:

  1. Connect with your kids. Talk to them about online risks; make sure communication lines are open.
  2. Gain access. Parents should have passwords for their children's social media accounts and full access to their kid's devices.
  3. Learn their technology. Research the devices your kids use; know more about their devices than they do.
  4. Get social. Know about the latest social networks; understand how they work and if your kids use them.
  5. Reputation management. Make sure kids know anything they post does not have an expiration date.