July 16, 2011

American Osteopathic Association Calls for Public Education on Cyberbullying

CHICAGO, July 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Bullying has been an unfortunate, but real problem for generations. However, what used to be contained to the playground or classroom is now moving closer to home and becoming harder to escape due to the increasing popularity of social media. A recent survey on cyberbullying--the act of harassing or teasing someone over social media networks--by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) found that one in six parents reported having a child who had been bullied over social media. Recognizing the need to increase awareness of this behavior, members of the AOA House of Delegates voted today to support public education on cyberbullying during its annual business meeting.

The AOA's survey results showed that more than 52% of parents surveyed were concerned about cyberbullying. However, only one in seven had discussed this issue with their teenager's physician. This policy encourages osteopathic physicians (DOs) and parents of adolescent patients to have an open dialogue about cyberbullying and the lasting emotional damage that it can cause.

"This policy encourages osteopathic physicians and their patients to start conversations about cyberbullying and helps parents realize they have another adult to turn to for help," explains AOA Trustee Joseph A. Giaimo, DO, an AOA board-certified internist from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and chair of the AOA Bureau of Communications, which introduced the policy to the AOA House. "Likewise, we want children to know that there are many adults who care about them, including their parents, teachers and physicians, to talk to if they are the victim of a bully."

The policy also called for public awareness efforts on cyberbullying through media advocacy that targets adults such as parents and guardians, educators and counselors.

Jennifer N. Caudle, DO, an AOA board-certified osteopathic family physician practicing in Little Rock, Ark., who has spent several years lecturing and conducting community outreach on bullying and childhood aggression issues, urges all adults who play an important role in a teenager's life to look for the signs of cyberbullying, which can be difficult to identify.

"When a child is being harassed online as opposed to the physical bullying that many think of, there are no bruises or cuts that make it easy to recognize so adults need to look for other warning signs," says Dr. Caudle. "If a child or teen is suddenly withdrawn or depressed, or doesn't want to spend time on their computer like they used to, this might indicate a cause for concern."

About the House of Delegates

The AOA's House of Delegates, comprised of more than 500 delegates representing osteopathic state medical associations, specialty societies, interns, residents and students from throughout the country, meets annually in July to set organizational policies and elect new officers.

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 78,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.

SOURCE American Osteopathic Association