The online social environment is for teens and young adults. The recent suicide of a Rutgers student is only the most recent event of several that have drawn attention to how the online environment can be as equally difficult as the real(?) one. While reading a recent Harvard Business Review blog entry by Tony Schwartz on self-worth, I was struck by the following:
Researchers have found that the highest rises in cortisol levels — the most extreme fight or flight response — are prompted by “threats to one’s social self, or threat to one’s social acceptance, esteem, and status.”
The online environment is as complicated to navigate for some as a girls’ clique in high school. While I am no psychiatrist (but I am a former social worker), the bullying online creates these threats. To an individual hiding his/her sexuality, an outing, particularly one during a freshman year in college, can be a threat to acceptance, esteem and status. Parents need to be particularly alert as the younger a person is, the less likely they are to know of resources or options. Life experience gives us perspective and the knowledge that difficult times are usually temporary. Children and young adults have not had those experiences and need our help to navigate them.