“It’s just part of growing up”.
“Kids need to learn to stick up for themselves”.
“People are too sensitive these days”.
These are some of the common excuses that people make for bullying. What most people don’t realize is that bullying, like everything else, has evolved with technology. Twenty years ago, bullying primarily took place at school. Kids could escape at home, and find other groups of friends outside of school. Today, this escape no longer exists. Bullies can harass their victims 24/7 through the internet.
As adults, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and our children about the severity of online bullying. We have created a guide to help you protect your children from being victims or perpetrators of cyber-bullying.
Why Cyber-bullying is Dangerous:
Cyber-bullying is detrimental to young people’s self-confidence. Bullying online is typically crueler because people will write things online that they would never say in person. Sometimes, cyber-bullying may happen unintentionally. Misinterpretations are very common through text, and what is a joke to one person may be hurtful to another.
There are many different forms of cyber-bullying. Some are obvious, like a mean text, status update, or hurtful comments on a photo. Other forms are less obvious, such as impersonating a victim or creating fake profiles. The major problem with cyber-bullying is that the harassment doesn’t only occur at school between 9-3. It can happen 24/7, 365 days a year.
Is Your Child Being Bullied Online?
It can be hard to spot the signs of online bullying. Children and teenagers are often reluctant to tell an adult, either because they are embarrassed or afraid they will have their computer or phone privileges taken away. Some signs that your child may be a victim of online harassment include:
- Changes in mood or behavior after using phone/ internet.
- Noticeable increase or decrease in phone/ internet use.
- Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits.
- Sudden attempts to change their appearance.
- Sudden change in interests/ activities.
- Sudden change in friend groups.
- Anxiety about attending school or social events.
- Remaining secretive about online activities.
If your child is exhibiting these signs, have an honest conversation with them. Never criticize your child for how they have handled their bully, and do not suddenly change rules on their phone/ computer privileges. This will only make them feel worse and prevent them from coming to you for help in the future. Instead, listen to them and offer your support. Talking to them about any bullying experiences you (or someone close to your child) had may help you connect with them.
Recommend strategies for them to try, such as blocking online bullies or reporting them to site administrators. Save the interactions with the cyber bully in case matters escalate and you need evidence. Ask your child to add you to their social media sites, and reward them if they agree. If the bullying continues or becomes more severe, get in touch with an adult at school. Many schools have programs in place to deal with cyberbullying. If the bullying continues after the school has been notified, contact local authorities.
Is Your Child Participating in Online Bullying?
If you discover that your child has been bullying someone online, confront them immediately. Many children do not recognize mean behavior online as bullying. Help educate them on the negative effects that online bullying has on their victims. Let them know that although you love them, their behavior has disappointed and embarrassed you. Set strict limitations and boundaries on their computer/ cell phone privileges until their behavior improves.
Remember, our children model our behavior. Set a good example for your children by avoiding bad-mouthing or gossiping about others in their presence.