Social Media is a Bullying Terrordome. Here’s How to Help a Kid Escape.

Take their phone away? Preposterous. Do this instead.


Photo by PH romao on Unsplash

Let’s say you’re in a dynamic where you know, you know, that everyone has banded together in dislike of you. Could be your job, your neighborhood, or wherever you’re stuck spending a ton of time. It’s clear they talk smack about you. They’re united in making fun of your looks, your voice, your clothes, your walk, your everything. But you don’t know why.

And you’re the only one in the joint who’s connected to nobody. Zero friends. It’s the whole place versus you.

Now imagine they’re all in a room, these former friends of yours, and they don’t know you’re outside the door. You have the option of standing there to hear whatever it is they’re saying. You know it will hurt, but you can’t not. You need to know what they’re saying. Right? Right.

And you’re…however old you are.

Now imagine how obliterating this would be for a high school kid.

This is why teenagers feel they need their phones. Their peers, as vital to them as the pack is to the wolf, are talking on social media. Around the clock. Possibly about them. Knowing what people are saying is the only way to stay safe.

When the nightmare comes true — when a kid is cast out of favor and they become the target of cruelty — the anxiety is supercharged. Kid will fight you to the death to keep their clutch on their phone. Snatching it out of their sweaty, paranoid hands might feel like you’re doing them a service. Think again.

To achieve anything with teens, there’s one rule that’s absolute: don’t try to control them. Always, control attempts will backfire. Why? Because the driving force in adolescent development is to grow into autonomy. The teen brain is preparing itself for self-sufficient adulthood. Following orders is what the small child does, subconsciously understanding that to do so is to stay safe, warm and fed by their caretaker.

But the young adult is just that: a young adult. Their behavior is driven more by the urge to flex power than to remain in the safe bubble of parental approval. If push comes to shove, their subconscious says, I can build my own hut…



Cyndy Etler | Teen Coach | Author

Locked up & homeless as a teen. Now teaching resiliency & hope with my YA memoirs & teen coaching. Seen on CNN, HuffPost, NPR, CBS, ABC.