How Media Affects Bullying

It’s in the news, popular TV shows, and social media. Heavy topics such as bullying, suicide, drugs, vaping, and shootings are inundating our media. Sadly, these topics are realities for many people, especially teens.

You may wonder if media affects bullying and other teen issues. The answer is absolutely; however, the effects can vary by individual and circumstances. Following, are some factors that parents should consider.

Types of Media

Popular Teen TV shows

Many of today’s popular teen drama shows touch on some of the hard issues that several of today’s teens face. Shows such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and American Vandal, and HBO’s Euphoria cover topics such as various forms of bullying, suicide, sex, classism, drugs, and more. While these topics can be very controversial and difficult to watch, I truly appreciate how they attempt to demonstrate how teenagers may feel and the issues they face.

I recommend that if you have a teen who has expressed an interest in watching any of these shows, to watch the show with your teen versus telling her that she cannot watch it or having her watch it alone or with her friends. These shows depict some of today’s reality of issues teens may encounter today, which provides parents with a good opportunity to have discussions with their teens on topics that may be difficult to talk about without examples from a show to start a conversation. Of course, parents should make sure they feel their teen is mature enough to handle the strong themes addressed before having them watch any of these shows.

News headlines and stories

Nearly every week, ramifications of bullying make headline news. Along with that, there are headlines of suicides, shootings, and other intentional tragedies. These types of news stories may be heartbreaking and ones that you’d rather your kids not see or read.  However, older kids and teens may hear about them online or when talking to their friends at school.

It’s not realistic or appropriate for parents to shelter their kids from the news. You may consider mentioning a local or big headline news story to your teen before they learn about it themselves or hear about it from someone else. You can use such news tragedies as opportunities to speak to your teen about these topics and to answer questions that the news story may pose. It’s ok to say, ‘I don’t know’ when asked questions such as ‘Why did the tragedy occur’. It’s good to remind kids and teens that our actions and words can have a powerful impact on others, which is why kindness matters.

Social media and cyberbullying

Despite Facebook’s, Instagram’s and other social network’s efforts to eliminate bullying, belittlement and harassment still occur. Teens are likely to witness bullying happening to someone they know (a peer or friend) or watch it being carried out by a celebrity or political figure.  More than one-third of teens have been bullied online themselves.  Here are some cyberbullying stats* to consider:

  1. 95% of teens in the U.S. are online, and the vast majority access the internet on their mobile devices, making it the most common medium for cyberbullying.
  2. About 37% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online. 30% have had it happen more than once.
  3. 60% of young people have witnessed online bullying. Most do not intervene.

As a parent, you may not be able to prevent online bullying, but you can help empower your child to move forward and find positive spaces.

  • Be available. Make time to engage with your child so that he or she can talk to you – and let your child know that you’re listening.
  • Be honest. Having open, honest communication with your children is essential. Let your child know that it’s alright to disagree with some viewpoints and behaviors, but it’s not ok to bully or bring others down.
  • Be encouraging. Give examples to your child of respectful people and compare them to people who are bullies. Help empower your child to be a good influence and to recognize that there is an opportunity for negative situations to be turned around and made better
  • Be a good role model. Children can be easily influenced and need clear guidelines. Take the moments you have to discuss and demonstrate how we treat each other.

Today, more than ever, kids and teens are exposed to bullying and other issues through various forms of media. Parents can turn these adverse events into positive teaching opportunities to help increase empathy and kindness to help reduce bullying and other teen concerns.

If you are a parent and have a child or teen, how do you feel media affects bullying and other teen issues? Having a conversation with your child on this subject can be a good way to share thoughts and build a stronger connection.

* Source:


About the Author:

Danielle Matthew is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who helps adolescents, adults, couples and families who are in pain due to issues such as anxiety, severe stress, low self-esteem, or depression. With over 20 years of experience, Danielle authored Amazon Parenting Best-Seller, The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying, and is the Director of The Empowerment Space Bullying Therapy Program in Los Angeles. Featured in Huffington Post and, Danielle has appeared on Fox, ABC and CBS Morning Shows and Mom Talk Radio, and is the expert contributor to Washington Post’s article: “Kids love to ‘roast’ each other. But when does good-natured teasing become bullying?