While young people may react differently, many will experience the same emotions and difficulties when exposed to something negative that has happened to them online.
Things such as cyber bullying, revenge porn, sextortion, childhood sexual exploitation or hate crime can be massively stressful and traumatic. They may experience shame and embarrassment due to judgement or exclusion from their circle of friends and fellow students. Often, young people are terrified that their parents, guardians or teachers find out as they fear they will be punished, or the police will get involved which for a young person can be terrifying due to feeling out of control of the situation.
If the thing that has happened to them has been done by someone close to them, they may feel like they can never trust another person ever again. If they are judged or punished by telling someone, this can further break that trust. This is a completely understandable reaction, but it can make the world feel like a scary and lonely place for them.
Other emotions or symptoms they may experience include:
These emotions or symptoms are not an abnormal response to something traumatic but simply our bodies way of naturally protecting us from danger. Unfortunately, sometimes they can become out of control and unmanageable.
These emotions are not exclusive to young people but all of us no matter how old we are. The difference is that adults are more likely to have developed the resources, communication skills and emotional resilience through life to deal with it in a more manageable way. Due to the underdevelopment of a young person’s brain, any exposure to extreme stress can structurally change their brain which means they are more likely to struggle regulating their emotions as adults. Healthy, safe, and trusting relationships with others can prevent this from happening which is why it is so important for us to be able to manage our own emotions and be able to communicate in a non-judgemental way. Of course, not all young people will be overwhelmed or experience unmanageable emotions due to online incidence and lots may have built up the resilience to deal with it in an effective way. However, following the guidance in this first aid box will only help to strengthen that.
Like they are going to be sick
Unable to sleep