The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 30, 2011

Parents should be aware of potential dangers of texting

By Violet Hassler, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Enid counselor Shaye Sheppard-Aman said she recently read that about 3,000 text messages per month is the average for adolescents these days.

“That’s a lot of texting,” she said.

The owner of Alpha Assessment Counseling says cyberbullying is becoming more significant and has impacted her business and her young clients.

“I’ve had a handful of kids threatened to be killed in text messages,” said Sheppard-Aman, LPC, NCC.

When that happens, her advice to parents is to involve the authorities immediately. While it may be “just a teenager,” she said, it is important to document any instances of threat or violence that could become an issue.

However, she said, most of what she deals with is “sexting,” which is a form of bullying that normally exploits young, insecure women.

She provides parents with a list of the latest text slang their children may be using they can be up-to-speed on what young people are saying in their messaging, either on the phone or online.

For example, “zerg” means to gang up on someone, while “LMIRL” is let’s meet in real life and “MOS” means mom over shoulder.

ATS director Rebecca Kroeker Livesay, MHR, LPC, said cyberbullying has not only impacted her line of work, but also has hit close to home.

Her daughter was receiving inappropriate text messages, she said, and as parents they had to step in and stop it.

“He’s no longer allowed to text her,” she said.

Parent involvement is crucial said fellow ATS counselor Catina Sundvall, MPC, LPC.

“By parents stepping in, that allowed ... ”

“The victim to have more power,” Livesay finished for her.

Statistics for cyberbullying remain low now, but local counselors say they will increase as more and more students get online and having cell phones with texting capabilities becomes more mainstream.

“I think it’s worrisome because it is not as an immediate consequence,” said Dr. Stephen Close, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who has practiced for more than 30 years.

Cyberbullies are “insulated from the consequences of their actions,” Close said.

But, he said, it cuts both ways.

Many bullies may prefer to act out to their victims directly so they can see the reaction their taunting will bring.

“Part of the gratification of the bullying is you get to see the pain it can produce,” he said.

However, no one can deny the role of computers and phones these days when it comes to bullying.

“True bullying crushes someone’s will,” Close said. Cyberbullying, he added, just opens up another avenue.