Dr. Joe Taravella is a licensed clinical psychologist practising in New York, New Jersey, and Staten Island. Dr. Joe’s clinical work is based in cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy with psycho dynamic theory, assisting clients with a variety of congenital, emotional, and traumatic disorders. Dr. Joe’s expertise lies in identifying and treating neurological, behavioural, and environmental problems that cause breakdown in a He Talks to NoBullying.com about Cyber Bullying Statistics and Bullying.
Below is a transcript of his Video Interview with NoBullying.com’s Founder: Ciaran Connolly on Cyber Bullying Statistics.
Dr Joe Taravella: My name is Dr. Joe Taravella. I’m a clinical psychologist so I’m doing private practice in New York in New Jersey. I have a specialization in marital and family work and in my work I specialize in working with children, adults and families with a variety of issues from learning issues to emotional issues and psychological issues. I’m also a Dad to almost triplets and the three of them keep me very busy.
Ciaran Connolly: Wow, sounds like you are very busy is right. Thank you for taking time out to join us today and shed some light onto bullying and give us some answers I guess and of course review on some of these questions. Do you think that bullying is as big an issue today as it was 10 or 20 years ago?
J: Yes, I certainly do. You know, I feel like bullying is a big problem and cyber bullying is on the rise among children, teens and young adults and you know, bullying statistics indicate that physical assaults had been replaced with cyber assaults which include harassing, threatening and humiliating peers online and studies indicate that there is an increasing rate of domestic violence at home which is related to an increase in bullying both online and at home.
C: That’s very interesting and you see a difference then in how bullying is happening today? Of course we have got social media, internet, everyone seems to have a mobile phone that connects to the internet and SMSs. So, as you are saying, it’s changing from physical to more tech savvy.
Cyber Bullying Statistics
J: Yes. As you said, everybody have a mobile phone and they are using them all day long you know. There certainly is a difference in how bullying happens today. Historically, we saw verbal and physical forms of bullying but now cyber bullying is on the rise so much more you know as I just said. Today everybody has access to electronics and information is spreading much more quickly than it ever has before; most of the cyber bullying is happening in chat rooms and in social networking sites and a lot of children frequent these sites. So, you know, some statistics say that about 7% of students admit to being a victim of one type of bullying or another and other statistics say that one in four kids will be bullied sometime during their adolescence.
C: Big numbers which is a shock to people who haven’t heard them before.
J: Yes, it is. Especially if you have children that are in this age bracket.
C: Yes, for sure. Concern and worry about others as well. With the current media coverage on cyber bullying, do you think things are improving? Are people more aware of it? Is that actually helping the cause or maybe causing more problems?
Cyber Bullying Statistics: It takes a Village…..
J: Well, I think it will get better and I continue to remain hopeful that the situation with bullying and cyber bullying is improving but you know much more needs to be done to stop the physical and emotional harm that is done to these kids. You know, it certainly takes a village of children, parents, educators, counsellors, law in government enforcement as well as social media companies to make a difference here and I think if everybody can work together, we will continue to see a decrease in bullying and cyber bullying.
C: Excellent. I think you make a very valid point that is actually everyone coming together. Often we hear, when it comes to bullying, that it’s down to the schools; it’s down to them as a duty of care. It happens there but actually community’s people, social media sites that it happens on, everyone is a stakeholder I guess of course. So, maybe they have more responsibilities than others but as a community or a society, we all have to do our best and fix this problem which is very true. In your practice you deal with children and you have families, have you ever came across cases of children being bullied?
J: Yes, I have. You know in my practice it’s been rare but I have seen cases where the bullying is severe. Often times the bully is a relative or a neighbour and quiet often it has already stopped and so what I see is the damage already done by the bullying and you know try to help the individual as much as I can to work through this and get to a better place. You know, I also see parents connecting more within the school system and given the recent media coverage you know with bullying and the increase in suicide rates among children, you know which is very scary, parents are becoming more proactive when there is an initial occurrence or problem. So, they reach out to the schools more quickly now in an effort to protect their children before something really catastrophic happens.
C: And you also work with families as well and you see the impact on people after the bullying has happened. Do you see family life being impacted or what are the consequences of someone being bullied?
J: I do. You know, I still see that some parents believe that hitting is an appropriate form of discipline you know where is in other families yelling has become kind of like the new hitting. So, I try and explain to parents that many of us are overwhelmed trying to keep it all together and at times we may overreact or kind of flip out on our kids and really we just need to take some time to develop strategies to help us not to allow this to happen. So, for example, if there are two parents in a home, I work with them and try to let them know that if you are getting to place when you are reaching a ten and you are going to flip out, have the other parent step in for you to try and recognize those times when you really at your limit and kind of leave and let the other parent take over so you have a cooling down period and when you come back, just try and use your words with your kids.
Tell them that “I’m angry because of this and that”, you know. Let them know that “I could be angry but I always love you and there is a difference between that”. With my children, since the time they were infants, I continue to reinforce the phrase that “Hands are for hugging and words are for loving” and reinforcing that over and over again to instil in them what kind of words we need to use and how we should use our hands.
C:Very good advice and I think I was on your website recently and I might have seen ‘Hugs of Three’, is that correct?
J: Yes, Hugs of Three. These are children’s books that my best friend and I from graduate school wrote. Hugs of Three series, it deals with all kinds of families and we wanted to target that from the infancy stage and so we created board books to do that, you know, to have families have special time together and for letting everyone know regardless of your family makeup, structure and composition, family is a family and whatever they makeup maybe, it’s your own special family.
The Secret Box
C: Very good and on your website you have a page (Children in Crises) which when you read it, it brings the reader onto (The Secret Box). Would you mind explaining that page and The Secret Box to us as well?
J: Yes, sure. You know, I came up with the idea of ‘The Secret Box’ working on a prospective TV show and I have all the patients that I have worked with. You know, secrets have existed since the beginning of time from governmental spies to anybody within a family structure and people hold on to secrets because they are afraid of the disapproval that they may receive from others and we know that secrets aren’t healthy; they divide family members, they prevent us to fully grow and can lead to painful mis-communications. So, ‘The Secret Box’ helps individuals reveal their secrets safely and effectively in an effort to sustain healthy interpersonal relationships and family relationships. So, in my practice I use ‘The Secret Box’. I have one in my office and patients can write down their secrets and put it into the box and even allowing that process to unfold helps release them of the toxic and negative energy that they are holding on from these secrets and I always allow them to feel like they are in control of this process and when we are going to read that secret or how we are going to read that secret is entirely up to them and so they feel a sense of safety and that they are in control of this as well.
Cyber Bullying Statistics: Communication
Very good. So communication is the key to strong family units and that’s something that you try and enforce with all your patients through the secret box?
J: Yes, I do. I really try and facilitate an open level of communication and that individuals feel that they are part of a team within their family and a child needs to feel safe in their home and supported by their family. So, you know, communication is one of the keys to that. Also love; I think that’s number one. Love certainly makes up a family and providing a home environment where the emotional temperature is warm and inviting so the children feel comfortable to speak to their parents.
C: Very good and you suggest that ‘The Secret Box’ could be used in schools? How would children use it as well?
J: Yes. So, you know, I believe that ‘The Secret Box’ will be very valuable in schools because often times children are afraid to come forward with information at a fear that they will be retaliated against or outed by speaking to someone about any kind of bullying or abuse that’s going on whether it’s inside the school or out of the school and so, ‘The Secret Box’ allows children to safely and anonymously reveal secrets of who is being bullied and someone in the school administration would be responsible for looking at the box each day and investigating what’s happening and taking the necessary actions to put a stop to this and as we talked about it before it really takes a whole team of people. So, you know, the administration can talk to parents and other teachers and staff to really put a team together to try and stop the abuse and bullying that’s going on.
Adult Bullying and Cyber Bullying Statistics
C: Very good and I can see how that will work because I guess bystanders will see things happening but often that information doesn’t make it to the person that can actually help the target. So, actually having a secret box would definitely help solve our problem. Have you come across adults who have been bullied in your practice as well?
J: I have. You know, what I see with many cases of domestic abuse in the home and I think that’s where the bullying really starts. Often times, the abuse stopped but people certainly need a safe place to discuss what happened to them in an effort to move forward from the abuse sort of bullying. It can be a very difficult and painful process to speak about this whether it’s currently happening or happened in the past and a lot of people try and forget about it but we really need to talk about it and learn how to cope with it in order to move forward in a more healthy manner. Things definitely can get better.
C: And again we brushed on that earlier. You do believe that there is long term damage to people who have been bullied and from what you are saying it sounds like it can be a cycle where parents are having problems at homes and maybe the children are seeing that and taking it to school and into their own life, is that something that could happen?
Cyber Bullying Statistics: The Long Term Effects
J: Yes, it definitely can and there has been research done about this as well. There is actually long term damage for both the victim and for the bully and you know some of the long term damage for victims are they can become chronically depressed with suicidal tendencies, they engage in self destructive behaviours like drinking alcohol and consuming drugs. Some of the long term effects for the bullies are they have a higher chance of getting convicted of a crime, going to jail, they become dependent on drugs and alcohol, they have difficulties maintaining long term relationships and have higher chances of abusing family members ironically. So, you know I was looking at some of the researches on this. There is a new study that came out that found victims of bullying in childhood were four times more likely to have an anxiety disorder as an adult and bullies were four times more likely to have an anti-social personality disorder as adults. Bullies, who were also victims, were over fourteen times more likely to develop panic disorder as adults and almost five times more likely to experience depression and research also shows that men who were both bullies and victims were over eighteen times more likely to have suicidal thoughts in adulthood and their female counterparts were over twenty six times more likely to develop agoraphobia. So, we see that they are many long term effects for both the victim and the bully which is quiet sad.
C: And I have to say then the tag of your page and your website, ‘Children in Crisis’, are definitely out for that. As a society, how do we break the cycle? What do you think we really need to do to try and move away from bullying or to move away from this problem?
J: You know there’s a lot of things that already being done and so many more that can be done:
- You know first parents need to educate themselves in bullying and cyber bullying.
- They need to be proactive but not to overreact with their children.
- Also to be aware of the signs in their child whether they start seeing signs of sadness or depression or anxiety, trouble sleeping even bed wetting, you know withdrawing from friends and family, not wanting to go to school, not even wanting to go on the computer anymore or fail in grades.
- Teach child to try and ignore things.
- Save something that if it’s on the computer that they can use for purposes later and also report things and to use their privacy settings on your computer, flag and report inappropriate posts.
- Have their kids take a break from the whole cyber world and try and enjoy their friends in person and setting a play dates and things like that.
- Also getting involved with school’s issues, being part of that team and learning about the school’s policy on bullying and just really educating themselves.
- Continue to work on some of the positive things like your child’s life skills by promoting self-esteem and encouraging activities and skills that they enjoy.
- Teaching them to restrain themselves, you know to think before they act.
- To foster good social skills.
- To teach good hygiene.
- Had a cope with rejection and disappointment.
- To have respect for others and themselves as well as empathy towards others.
- And I can go on and on, you know teaching assertiveness, not aggressiveness, stay involved in school sports or any kind of activities that make them feel good and so they feel that they are also part of a team.
- As for online stuff, you know, also to talk to them about what not to do. Don’t impersonate others online, don’t change someone else’s profile, stay away from gossip and to not be a bystander; they can report bullying to school administrators, they can offer support to the victim and they can also feel proud that they are doing things liked by others. Kids can also start an anti bullying program at their school or be part of one.
You know there is a great quote that I often think of and give to families and children as well, you know, it comes from Sigmund Freud, one of the most famous psychiatrists out there. “Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair” and so we need to be cognizant of the words we use on our children. Also, model being impeccable on our word and using good words and kindness and love.
C: Very good. Some brilliant advice there so thank you very much for that and if anyone wanted to find out more about ‘The Secret Box’ or even reach out to you and try connect with you and seek some help, where can they find you?
J: Yes I have a website online that is drjoetaravella.com and there is lots of information on there about kids and families and crisis and how to get to a better place in life because it is certainly doable for everyone and even though we may feel we are in a place of despair and desperation, things can not only get better but they certainly get great and I want people to hold on to that message.