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Cyberbullying: Parents, Educators Should Learn the Warning Signs

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Cyberbullying has been pointed to as the cause behind a number of teen suicide in recent years, shedding light on the insidious problem. As schools and parents look to implement prevention methods, it's important to understand the underlying reasons why some kids bully online, and why others are susceptible to it. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Ask any teenager and they will likely have a cyberbullying story for you. Fourteen-year-old Fouad Dakwar says it's pretty common among his peer group, especially on sites that allow anonymous posts.

"They think they can say whatever they want because they have the protection of a screen so they end up saying really hurtful things," Dakwar said.

New York Center for Living Medical Director Dr. Marianne Chai says cyberbullying tends to be more common among girls than boys. According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey about 16 percent of high school students were cyberbullied.

"The kids who I think are most susceptible to internalizing these things are the kids who have a lot of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem," Chai said.

According to Chai, signs that your child is being bullied include headaches, stomach aches, being fearful, not wanting to go to school and being more socially withdrawn.

The symptoms for those doing the bullying are actually very similar.

"If you are seeing change in mood, change in attitude, change in appetite, change in appearance. All of the sort of things we would look for to indicate that there is depression going on. These issues need to be addressed," Chai noted.

Experts say it's important to recognize that cyberbullying is likely a symptom of a larger problem: A way for a troubled youth to cope with their own social anxiety.

"They tend to lack impulse control. So you see a comorbidity sometimes with ADHD. And then in the more popular kids who are maybe more socially successful in a lot of ways, but also engage in cyberbullying they tend to lack empathy," Chai said.

Dr. Chai advises parents not to be afraid of closely monitoring their child's online activity.

"If you catch them cyberbullying it's really important to have consequences. You take away their Internet use," Chai said.

Reaching out to mental health professionals for assistance and teaming up with your child's school is also a crucial step.

"A school can address these issues and look for the students who are at higher risk and then cultivate an environment along with the parents involved in this school community to create a safe space," Chai said.

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