Brain In The News: What Can Parents Do About Cyberbullying?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen look at some of the current news stories involving the brain. This installment includes an in-depth look at cyberbullying. Dr. Amen and Tana give you some of the characteristics to look for in your own child’s life, as well as tips for effective ways to approach the subject to make them feel safe and supported.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back to vampire or vaping week. In this podcast, we're going to go through what's Brain in the News. What are the interesting articles that Tana and I have picked out about the brain that has been in the news? But before we do that, you have-
Tana Amen: I have an amazing review. This is actually ... It's a little long, but it's so great, I just have to read it. Because we love success stories. We always say, please leave us your success stories. Go to Leave us your success stories because they are our payment. That's our joy juice.
Okay, so, "My daughter's rating was 25 out of 27 on the depression scale. She was contemplating suicide every day. She had been in and out of two psych facilities. She had tried about 10 different antidepressants. Nothing was helping her.
"But Dr. Grin saved her life," all in caps. "He took two-plus hours to review the brain scan and other tests that were done, and he came up with a plan that is working for her." We love Dr. Grin, side note.
All right. "He listened to her and he laid out a plan of therapy, anti-depressant meds, supplements and vitamins that has changed her life. She is now back at college, playing the sport that she loves. She's happy again. She's interacting and laughing with her friends and teammates. She has a sense of purpose, and she is living a normal 20-year-old life.
"My husband and I felt like a 20-pound weight was lifted off our shoulders. We didn't know what to do and who to turn to. Dr. Grin talked to us, not down to us. He explained why she needs these meds and vitamins. My husband especially needed to hear this reasoning. He does not understand depression. He thought she just needed to think positively, get out of bed and do something you enjoy. This will pass.
"But depression doesn't just magically go away. Dr. Grin's plan was very specific, and he had reasons behind every part of the plan. My daughter and husband's relationship has been repaired." It's made me cry. "I know this will be a journey with ups and downs, but we are on the right path."
As somebody who had depression, it's really hard when someone tells you ...
Dr. Daniel Amen: "Snap out of it."
Tana Amen: "Snap out of it."
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because it's not possible, and then that just demoralizes you-
Tana Amen: It's so painful.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, because people don't see it as a medical problem, and they see it as a moral problem.
Tana Amen: Yeah. So, congratulations. This is by Christy Z.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That's why we do what we do. All right, Brain in the News. Statistics show online bullying increased among teens and tweens 3.5% since the 2014/15 school year. Cyberbullying is on the rise.
Tana Amen: Why?
Dr. Daniel Amen: A twelve-year-old was an all-American girl before suicide.
Tana Amen: Oh my God. And you have to ask yourself why. What makes kids want to be that mean? I know that we talk about hormones and how 14 to 16 is the meanest time in a kid's life. That's when they're in the meanest. But you just have to ask yourself, why don't they realize that they're being so mean they're ruining someone's life?
And oh, by the way, it doesn't stop when they're teenagers. Even on my social media, because we have public platforms, we get really mean stuff on there. But the difference is I don't care at this stage. At this stage of my life, at this age, I just block people. I don't want them. I just will not let them be on my sights. But at that age, when social pressure is so strong, it's such a hard ... At that age, that would've devastated me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And if you don't have a close-
Tana Amen: In fact, it did devastate me. We just didn't have social media.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. So you imagine-
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... if people said that, and all of a sudden, not only everybody on the school knows what people said-
Tana Amen: But now everyone everywhere.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But everyone everywhere. And you often feel like there's an avalanche of hatred coming toward you-
Tana Amen: And you don't have the skill set to understand that it doesn't really matter. I mean, you don't have that skill set yet.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and we have an issue coming up. You know, our nine-year-old niece wants a phone. And so, when do you need a phone?
Tana Amen: She was already cyberbullied. It was crazy. Nine years old. And someone posted something about her on the internet. It was just crazy. And I don't even think the other child understood how mean it was, but how hurtful it was, that's one of the problems. Maybe we need to do a better job of educating our kids on how much certain things can hurt other people. Because I don't even think she realized it, but it was really devastating.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But putting those parental protective apps on the phones ... And some little kids, we actually want them to have phones.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because they have GPS devices, we can track them, and-
Tana Amen: Or they have no choice. They have to. There are some kids ... There are parents who share custody. There are parents who have to work, okay? There's just not a choice. They need to be able to reach their kids. Or sporting events. I mean, there's a lot of reasons. We're not one of those ... We aren't people who are just like, "Oh, you should not give your kids phones." Yeah, don't give them phones until you have to. But there are people who have to.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, so what are things parents can do about cyberbullying? Watch out for changes in behavior. If kids are being bullied, they'll begin to want to avoid schools, sports and other activities.
And if you don't have a good relationship with your child, your child is not going to tell you about what's going on. That's why when we talk about special time and active listening, it's just so important to protect them, so if something is going wrong, you know about it.
Be in front of the conversation. Educate your kids about bullying, what it is, how it manifests, how to seek out resources at school and other places. And what I've seen is many schools, they get on top of it right away, because it's a big-
Tana Amen: And many of them do not.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But because it is now such a big issue that they're better. Log any incidents with the school. When a bullying incident occurs, it's important to log it with the school. Should it escalate, the log is evidence of the complaint and so this is-
Tana Amen: So one thing I'm a big fan of, because I have actually known several incidents now where the school really didn't do anything. I'm a big fan of sending emails so it's in writing. So now they know about it. There is some liability there on their part. Sorry, but that's just how my brain works. It's like you need to do your part, but get the school involved because your kid spends eight hours a day there, so get them doing their part.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So some other tips from another article on cyberbullying. Schools already deal with bullying through anti-bullying policies and procedures. We had none of that when we were growing up. But as a teacher or school staff member, some of the things they can do.
Support. Provide the person being bullied with support and reassurance. Tell them that they did the right thing by telling, right? Those of you who keep secrets, these secrets can actually be deadly. It's like if somebody tells you they're going to kill themselves, you have to tell other people.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Even though they said, "Oh, please don't tell anybody."
Evidence. Help the child keep relevant evidence for investigations. This can be done by taking screenshots or printing web pages. Do not allow the deletion of phone messages.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Daniel Amen: Inform. Give the child advice for making sure it does not happen again. This can include changing passwords, contact details, blocking profiles. I cannot tell you the number of people who, for a 14-year-old, they're being either bullied or enticed by adults that are pedophiles.
Tana Amen: Yeah, that happened actually to us on one of Chloe's acting profiles.
Dr. Daniel Amen: No retaliation. Ensure that the young person does not retaliate or reply to the messages. Right, I mean, because both of us had been cyberbullied that our first instinct is to say something wicked or nasty back.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And what we found, when people do that in a public forum-
Tana Amen: Other people do it for you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That our fans, our Brain Warriors, will go and respond. So don't retaliate.
Privacy. Encourage the child to keep personal information private.
And investigation. The cyberbullying claim needs to be investigated fully. If the perpetrator is known, ask them to remove offending remarks. But all records should be kept.
Report it. It's just so important that people are not quiet about this.
Tana Amen: And one thing I want to talk about is, what are some of the signs that your kid's being bullied if they're not coming out and telling you they're being bullied? They'll start to say that they're sick a lot. They don't want to go to school and they'll start to claim a lot of physical problems. "My stomach hurts," "My head hurts," whatever. They'll start to just start playing sick. And they may actually even look sick because they'll be depressed.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And there's some groups of kids that are more likely to be bullied.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ADD kids, for example, they often are conflict-seeking or excitement-driven, impulsive. And so, they say things, they get other people mad at them and make it more likely that they're going to be bullied.
Autistic kids-
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because-
Tana Amen: Social.
Dr. Daniel Amen: They don't read social cues, and they can get stuck on certain ritualistic behavior-
Tana Amen: Well, and it's one of the things that makes me really sad and really irritated is kids that have certain disabilities. I hate the word disabilities even. Let's just say challenges. It's amazing to me that in this day and age that kids will still tease kids like that or really make fun of them if they wear a hearing aid or they walk with crutches or ... Just, it's bizarre, but they still do it and they still do it a lot.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because the empathy part of their brain is not fully developed, and so-
Tana Amen: Oh, interesting. I didn't think about it from that perspective, yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You know, we talked about vaping. Vaping damages developments, and that's why everybody's upset about it when companies are marketing to teenagers. Because if your brain's not fully developed and then on top of that you're drinking alcohol, smoking pot, vaping, you might permanently be 14.
Tana Amen: So maybe rather getting so annoyed, as parents, we can understand that that part of their brain's not developed yet. And we act as their frontal lobes and teach them about empathy and how hurtful what they're doing is.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, and if you think about it, children are growing up more and more by themselves.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because the economy and both parents having to work, the lack of or the decreased supervision, kids are going to act more like kids who have frontal lobes that are not yet developed. And so, appropriate supervision is critical. I'm beginning to work on a new book, Personalized Parenting, parenting strategies to your child's brain type. And supervision is so important. And sort of the hallmark thought of the book is you need to be your child's frontal lobes until theirs develop.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is longer than we thought-
Tana Amen: So two things that we've taught Chloe. When something's not going well or she's not doing well at something, or even in this situation, we want her to step back and ask herself, what can she learn from it and what can she do to make the situation better? Be in the solution. So to be in the solution, what can I do? We want to empower her to have a solution rather than feeling like a victim.
And the other thing that I always teach her is, what can I learn? What can I be grateful for? What can I be thankful for? And that's really hard to do when someone's bullying you, right? But if you can put yourself in that mindset, even if it's a hard thing to answer, even if it's something tiny, it just takes you out of that negative victim mode. It puts you in a more resourceful state. And we've taught her that since she was little.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, we have so many other Brain in the News things to talk about, but we're running out of time-
Tana Amen: That was a good one though.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So we'll save them for next week. We should probably have bullying week or how to deal with bullies. And they're bullies not just-
Tana Amen: At work.
Dr. Daniel Amen: In teenagers.
Tana Amen: No.
Dr. Daniel Amen: There're clearly bullies in medicine. You know, I've been bullied a lot. And I don't hang out with people who are mean to me-
Tana Amen: Right, but sexual harassment is a form of bullying-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Absolutely.
Tana Amen: I mean, there's all kinds of bullying,
Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, so we'll have it. We'll do a bullying week.
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