Kids spend a lot of time using social media, but a new study reveals an alarming trend about what our kids are seeing on those sites - and it's something parents will not like.
Brittany Blake, 16, went to school each day on guard; she was being targeted by bullies.
“It was like a battleground,” she said. “A school should be a safe place, and it wasn't for me.”
Writing poetry was her refuge; detailing her daily clashes with bullies.
“People were always pushing me into lockers, knocked me down, knocked stuff out of my hands,” Brittany said.
Physical abuse she documented with pictures, but kept secret from her family, including her mother, Vicky.
“We live with the girl every day and we didn't have a clue,” Vicky said.
She said, looking back, she didn't pay attention to the signs.
“She'd wear heavy makeup, I guess, and long sleeves when it was warm outside, said it was cold in the classrooms, so she'd wear a jacket to hide her bruises,” Vicky said.
Brittany eventually left her central Oklahoma school and started a homebound program, but the bullying followed her on social media.
“It was just jokes about my weight or my preferences, and it was ‘Go kill yourself,'” Brittany said.
The abuse caused severe anxiety and depression in Brittany and even suicidal thoughts.
Family Counselor Teresa Deck said, “Sometimes they believe what the other people are saying about them.”
She said words can be just as harmful as physical violence.
“It affects their self-esteem, it can affect their school work and it can have a damaging impact on children and their self-worth,” Deck said.
A new study called "teens and the screen" by the Internet security company, McAfee, reveals 87 percent of kids have witnessed cyberbullying - that's three-times more than in 2013 - and of those kids, 26 percent are the victims.
“It just how important it is for parents to stay tuned in to what their children are doing on their phones and the Internet and social media,” said Deck.
Brittany is slowly healing from the abuse she suffered - now listening to other victims through online counseling websites, like Seven Cups of Tea.
“To know that I'm not alone and there are other people who deal with it, makes me feel reassured that the people doing it are the ones who need help,” Brittany said.
The Top 5 recommendations for parents are:
1) Connect with your kids. Talk to them about online risks; make sure communication lines are open.
2) Gain access. Parents should have passwords for their children's social media accounts and full access to their kid's devices.
3) Lear their technology. Research the devices your kids use; know more about their devices than they do.
4) Get social. Know about the latest social networks; understand how they work and if your kids use them.
5) Reputation management. Make sure kids know anything they post does not have an expiration date.