While bullying is not a new problem, social media bullying is a recent and serious phenomenon. “Online platforms magnify bullying and make it much worse,” said Atkind. “With social media, things could be out in the whole world. Everybody in high school or junior high school could see that, their parents could see that,” she said. “And, it never goes away. It lives there forever.”
Atkind advocates for a multifaceted approach to combating teen abuse and bullying, since “there’s not a magic bullet.” Parents need to understand why their children are acting out if they are bullying others, and why their children are the subject of bullying if they have been targeted. Parents need to help their children, whether they are the perpetrators or victims of bullying. Schools, Atkind explained, need to become better at identifying signs of when kids are troubled, and become “trauma-informed,” she said.
The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey and Adubato are collaborating on a series of conversations to discuss bullying and abuse; a recent episode of Think Tank with Steve Adubato featured a panel discussion on this issue, which included Atkind.
“We learned over the course of the 22 or so years that we’ve been around that mental health and physical health are totally connected to each other,” she said. “You can’t be a healthy person if you’re not mentally healthy.”