Bullies and meanies have been around since forever. If you were young before the internet came about, you know that most bullying happened in person. Bullies tormented other kids during recess, at the bus stop, in the hallway, or cafeteria. However, the bullying generally stopped once a child got home. The house was a safe place and a haven that offered protection from abuse. Not anymore.
With the internet, that bubble has burst. Technology and social media have allowed bullies to circumvent the old playground rules where the home is off-limits. Kids today can bully other kids anywhere and anytime they want, which is unsettling. For parents, cyberbullying is scary because it is so pervasive.
All parents need to know that cyberbullying is unacceptable behavior that must stop. Read on to find out how you can protect your child and keep her safe.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is using online technology to hurt other people. Anyone, at any age, can be either a cyberbully or a victim. Cyberbullies use the internet, specifically social media, as a bully pulpit to embarrass and harass people. People do this on purpose, and the abuse is usually ongoing. Children are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying.
Kids today use all sorts of online apps and platforms to talk to one another, including:
- Social media.
- Chat or Instant Messaging apps.
- Online multiplayer games.
- Photo sharing apps.
- Message boards and communities.
Cyberbullying can happen on any of these platforms. Children have a way with new technology, making it easy for them to track down and harass another kid.
Examples of Cyberbullying:
- Sending cruel texts, emails, or instant messages.
- Spamming messages meant to harass and annoy another.
- Posting unflattering photos on social media.
- Sharing unflattering photos about a victim to other kids, who then share it with more kids.
- Posting hurtful and untruthful things about someone on social media.
- Spreading rumors, false accusations, or gossip about another child online.
- Making fun of another kid in an online chat or forum that has other members.
- Constantly attacking and killing an avatar in an online game on purpose.
- Creating a fake online profile and pretending to be someone else.
Do note that not all conflicts online are cyberbullying. Some are reasonable arguments and disagreements between kids that spill over to social media. Others are playful banter, inside jokes, or even trash-talking, especially when playing games. How can you tell if a particular behavior is cyberbullying? If a child does any of the examples regularly and on purpose, then it’s cyberbullying.
How to Find out if Your Kids are Being Cyberbullied?
As mentioned above, cyberbullies can use any form of media to reach their victims. Kids are getting more tech-savvy by the day, which is why parents need to keep a close watch on their child’s online and offline habits.
Signs of cyberbullying vary for each child, but there are similar behavioral patterns to look out for:
- Your child gets upset during or after using social media.
- Your child wants to stop or stops using one or all forms of digital media and electronic devices.
- Your child is always nervous or shows anxiety when getting an IM, text, or email.
- Your child avoids discussions about gaming, cell phones, and computers.
- Your child is very secretive of his/her digital life.
The effects don’t stop online, so you have to watch out for these warning signs as well:
- Your child withdraws from friends, family, and activities s/he used to love.
- Your child avoids school and group gathering.
- Your child’s grades are slipping.
- Temper and anger tantrums or “acting out” at home.
- Mood swings, change in behavior, sleeping patterns, and loss of appetite.
How to Prevent Cyberbullying?
You can prevent cyberbullying by teaching your child how to interact in an online and offline world. Talk with your child about cyberbullying and set clear instructions on what to do if s/he experiences it. Go over the school safety and security guidelines on how to report a cyberbullying incident.
Your child needs to understand that the world is more than the internet and social media. Take your child out to practice her social skills and public awareness. These skills can translate and help your child deal with the online world better. As a last resort, you can also limit computer and gadget use while blocking the cyberbully online.
Check out this informative infographic for more information on cyberbullying.
Recommended Books on Bullying and Cyberbullying
Rachel Wise is a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist with a Master’s Degree in Education. She is also the head author and CEO at educationandbehavior.com, a site for parents, caregivers, educators, counselors, and therapists to find effective, research-based strategies that work for children. Rachel has been working with individuals with academic and behavioral needs for over 20 years and has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and the adults who support them. For Rachel’s top behavioral strategies all in one place, check out her book, Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children, a Guide for Parents and Teachers. If you want Rachel to write for your business, offer behavioral or academic consultation, or speak at your facility about research-based strategies that support children, email her at email@example.com.