Ask an Expert: My daughter was harassed online and now says she is depressed. Do I ban her from all social media?

My daughter has changed. She has become very isolated and withdrawn, skips schooling and doesn’t want to go out in crowds. She used to like going out with her family to shopping malls. Naturally I have run all the medical tests under the sun. She is fine.

Her behaviour has become worse over the last six months. She thinks she has depression. Yesterday she shared with me that she was chatting with a 17-year-old boy she liked on Facebook. To cut a long story short, it seems that he and his group asked to met up with her and she naturally put them off and said no. After a while they really started to harass her via phone and Facebook and send her rude photos (not sexting, just sticking their fingers up). This is a group of about five 17-year-olds. My daughter is 16 and we come from a strict Egyptian/Australian family.

The boys have criticised her looks so much that she has no self-confidence and doesn’t want to go out with her family. Her father does not know anything, and she is very afraid of what he would say and do. She does not use Facebook anymore and I have her phone, she uses it only for listening to music. She is paranoid about the situation and her thought processes have changed in relation to how she understands things. She over thinks lots of issues.

I really don’t know what to do, she goes through being up and then down in her moods.

Do I fully ban her from all social media and how do I get her to go out in crowds? I think they have frightened her.

I am sure I do not know fully what was said to her, but I believe she is a victim of harassment and bullying. I don’t think she sees it this way.

I’m so sorry that your daughter is experiencing so much self doubt and it sounds like her self esteem has really been undermined. As a teenager, she will be experiencing a vast range of emotions and the realisation of the opposite sex and attraction. Coming from a strict background this may be giving her feelings of guilt and a varying range of questions which she may be afraid to ask, hence the over-thinking. You say you have run medical tests but without further information on what these tests were it is difficult for me to make a diagnosis.

Teenagers do have mood swings as they adjust to the process of moving from childhood into adulthood. This can be very daunting for them as they realise the real world can be difficult to navigate.

Try to get some one-on-one time with her, not in a shopping mall but somewhere less busy and overwhelming like a small coffee shop, where you can chat. Share your experiences as a teenager and validate her feelings and not necessarily the situation.

With social media, those that bully have a lot of bravado behind the safety of a screen. Their words say a lot more about them and demonstrate how they lack maturity and understanding.

It is wonderful you are trying to help her. I recommend you find a good counsellor who your daughter can talk to about what she is feeling.

Nathalie Brown, childhood behavioural consultant, Easy Peasy Kids

Our Ask an Expert Week panelists are all qualified professionals in their field. However, advice given on The Kids Are All Right website is not a substitute for direct, personal, professional counselling or psychological care, medical care and diagnosis.

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