Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? The Parent’s Guide to Signs and Solutions
Is your child being cyberbullied?
Chances are, you grew up before the days when the internet was widely available at home. Maybe you didn’t have a mobile phone until you were well into your teens or 20s.
Your child or teen, however, is a “digital native”. They’ve grown up with touchscreen devices and always-on fast broadband.
This provides lots of wonderful opportunities: information at their fingertips, online games they can enjoy playing with friends, even during lockdown, and much more.
But it also brings new dangers.
Cyberbullying is becoming increasingly common in a constantly connected world. For instance, the report on bullying compiled by legal experts revealed that only 1% of Generation X but 12% of millennials were cyberbullied as children.
It can be difficult to understand cyberbullying as a parent. Instead of bullying taking place within the confines of school, or on the school bus, it’s now a destructive force that can reach your child anywhere, any time.
Signs That Your Child is Being Cyberbullied
Here are some key signs that may indicate your child is being cyberbullied:
Anxiety About Using Their Devices
Your child’s phone beeps to indicate a new text – and you see them flinch. If your child seems anxious or furtive when they check messages, that could suggest that they’re being cyberbullied.
Angry Outbursts After Going Online or Gaming
Does your child react angrily after time online? Maybe they’ve thrown a game controller across the room, or you’ve heard them swearing angrily. While this could just be a sign of frustration with a game that didn’t go how they wanted, it could also be a reaction to cyberbullying.
Being Secretive About Online Activity
Is your child hiding their online activity from you? Perhaps they always go out of the room to use their phone or laptop, or you’ve noticed that they’ve set up a password so no-one else can access it. This might indicate a growing desire for privacy, but it can also be a sign that they’re being cyberbullied and they’re frightened or ashamed about it.
Any form of bullying can result in worrying health symptoms. Perhaps your child has recently lost or gained weight, or they’ve started complaining of headaches or stomach aches. Maybe they’re having trouble sleeping, or they seem tired during the daytime.
Self-harm or Talking About Suicide
Bullying can sometimes result in self-harm, which can involve a range of self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting. If your child talks about suicide, even in passing, that’s an immediate red flag – seek professional help.
What to Do if You Think Your Child is Being Cyberbullied
Cyberbullying can have a hugely detrimental effect on your child’s wellbeing. They may feel like they can’t get away from the bullies. They may even start to believe the nasty things that bullies say about them. If the bullying is from schoolmates, they might start refusing to go to school, or coming up with excuses to stay home.
Here are some positive things you can do, and encourage your child to do:
Encourage Your Child to Talk to You
Make sure your child knows they can talk to you, any time, about any problem. If they do bring up cyberbullying, be careful not to be dismissive by saying things like “You’re being too sensitive.” Take it seriously.
Keep a Record of Messages Sent
Keep screenshots or saved copies of any emails, messages, and more from cyberbullies. That way, you can go to the school (if the bullying involves a classmate) with evidence. You could even involve the police if the cyberbullying has been particularly bad.
Block Bullies on Social Media
Help your child to block bullies on social media apps like Facebook and Instagram. This means that your child won’t see posts from the bully and the bully can’t see or interact with any posts from or involving your child. Additionally, try to involve your child into some other type of offline activity like reading, outdoor sports, playing board games so that less time and attention would be left for interacting with bullies on social media.
Make Time to Talk
Make sure you give your child the time and space to talk to you. Resist the urge to sit them down for a serious face to face chat: it’s often easiest for teens to bring up problems when you’re side by side, such as driving in the car, or working on a task together.
If the bullying is serious, or having a serious effect on your child, seek advice from the police or from health care professionals.
Photo Courtesy of Beth Mendoza