Study Shows Family Dinners Can Help Kids Deal With Cyberbullying

By Mallory Lane

Published 09/03 2014 03:15PM

Updated 09/03 2014 05:21PM

BELLEFONTE, CENTRE COUNTY - A new study shows eating dinner as a family can help protect children from the effects of cyberbullying.

According to JAMA Pediatrics, children whose families eat dinner together four or more times per week have fewer problems with cyberbullying than those children who never have family dinners.

About 1 in 5 kids will experience some form of online bullying, a reality Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrician Dr. Kristie Kaufman sees all the time.

"The daily verbal abuse that kids do to each other, be it in fun or not in fun is there," she said. "I think a lot of it does not get reported and isn't revealed."

That's why she, and others, said eating dinners as a family during the week is so important.

Researchers surveyed more than 18,000 students between the ages of 12 and 18 from 49 schools in the Midwest. Their findings show a positive connection between cyberbullying and other problems like anxiety, depression, self harm and substance abuse.

"Eating dinner together, in addition to any other family-based activities, such as driving in the car together to school or taking family trips, can increase communication," Dr. Kaufman said. "Hopefully kids will feel more comfortable coming to the parents if there are things on the Internet they know are wrong or afraid of."

Bellefonte Area School District School Resource Officer Jason Brower said bullying and cyberbullying is a major problem in schools, sometimes happening as early as fourth grade.

"First day of school, I've had one incident already," Brower said. "It doesn't always happen inside of school, a lot of it happens outside of school, but it certainly rolls into school the following day."

Brower said cyberbullying happens most often on cell phones that support apps and on home computers.

He said education is key, not just for students, but for parents, too.

"Communication. I think the best thing parents can do is communicate with their students or with their children," Brower said. "Talk to them. If they're having issue with it, look at what they're talking about."

Parents should look for signs like anxiety and depression in children who may be getting bullied. Students will often say they don't want to go to school anymore.

There are consequences for students who are found guilty of bullying, either in person or online. They can be charged with a misdemeanor offense.

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