Think back for a minute and envision the days when you were in grammar school. Chances are when I say the word “bullying,” a few faces probably come to mind instantly. You can most likely think of at least one person who was bullied and at least one person who was the one doing the bullying. Every school had them. They existed in every grade. Some bullying was worse than others, but it affected the kids none the less.
The biggest difference about then and now is that back then, we knew our bullies. We could talk to our teachers, our principals, our parents, and try to work out the differences and at least try to agree to put an end to the bullying. These days, the bully is often times hidden behind a computer where the simple strokes of their keyboard leaves imprints on those they bully forever.
Cyberbullying, or the use of electronic communication to bully a person, is faceless and often times nameless. A person can hide behind the keys, so to speak, and be anyone they want to be and say anything they want to say, often times with no repercussion or consequences. It is for this reason that cyberbullying is on the rise and happens so often. Things are said online that one would never have the courage or audacity to say to someone’s face.
Cyberbullying can occur on social media and various apps that the child is using and often times, the parents or guardians are none the wiser. Sometimes parents may find themselves in a situation where they aren’t even aware of all of the apps and websites that their child visits or has accounts on. The greater their online presence, the greater their chance of being bullied becomes.
Knowing the Signs
The good news is that as parents or caregivers, you are not totally helpless in spotting and addressing bullying. There are some signs that your child may exhibit if they are involved with cyberbullying.
Keep an eye out to see if your child:
- Hides their screen or device when you or others are nearby and could sneak a peek
- Won’t discuss what they are doing on the internet
- Has a sudden increase/decrease in frequency of device use or is using it at strange hours
- Shows anger or other high emotional responses when using their device
- Starts to dodge social situations (particularly those that were once loved), becomes depressed, or shows no interest in people and/or activities
- Creates new social media accounts or deletes their account
If you noticed any of these signs, your child may be involved with cyberbullying.
I noticed some signs. What next?
If your child is showing some signs of cyberbullying, it’s important not to push it to the wayside in hopes that it will resolve on its own. Often times, as a means of avoiding confrontation or having an awkward discussion, that’s what happens. Keep in mind that you are the adult. You are your child’s advocate. You know it’s not right and it needs to stop and be addressed.
Let your child know that you are concerned that something is happening to them online and that often times people pick on others in this manner because they are unhappy and lack confidence themselves. Make sure you talk to your child in a private, nonthreatening setting and remain calm and collected.
If they admit to being bullied, dig deeper to try and find out where the bullying is occurring. Often time’s people need to be blocked or accounts need to be deleted and then reestablished under a new user name. This is unfortunate, but can act as a deterrent for the bully.
If the bullying is happening through a school site, administrators should be contacted immediately to help put an end to the situation. All parties involved should be addressed and the manner should be put to rest. If the bullying continues or starts back up, further action is needed by the school.
Perhaps the best way to understand cyberbullying is by perusing the social media, gaming, and other frequented apps yourself. Having an understanding of how they work and how people interact on these sites may prove to be invaluable, especially when you have the discussion with your child and try to take corrective measures. You may have accounts on these sites and have witnessed the bullying that can occur first hand. Knowledge is power and it will help if you know all about those apps that your child visits.
Luckily, devices often are made with a parental control feature. Some are more detailed than others, but they allow you to have some control over what your child is allowed to do while on the computer/phone/tablet/etc. Make good use of these parental controls. Put a lock on various things that could be of danger or should be regulated. This way, you will have to enter a secret code that you created to give them access to those areas. It’s also advised to change that code on a regular basis.
Always remember, you are your child’s biggest role model. They look up to you in every area. Demonstrate positive behavior and positive interactions with others. Assist your child in building self-awareness and teach them to have empathy for others. This goes a long way.
Cyberbullying will probably always have some hold on the internet, because it’s an easy, faceless way for cowards to attack and prey on others. It’s important for everyone to know what to look for to spot if it’s happening, and what to do if they think it’s occurring.
For any additional resources or tips on how to prevent bullying, visit: