Digital connections have become the new norm as the majority of children and teenagers spend a significant amount of their time online. While the internet has made it easier for some tasks, like staying in touch with family members or studying, it has also exposed individuals to a new form of bullying.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that is done electronically. It involves intimidation or harmful threats and communication via text message, email, chat room, or over social media. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying is willful, repeated, harmful, and takes place over the internet. While most cases of cyberbullying occur among teenagers, cyberbullying can target anyone, regardless of their age or gender.
One of the biggest problems with cyberbullying is that it is not always easy to identify. The communication and bullying takes place in a virtual setting, making it difficult for parents and teachers to notice the warning signs. Cyberbullying has become an increasing concern, with many teachers reporting it as their #1 safety concern in the classroom. With an estimated one in three children having reported being the victim of online bullying, it is important for parents to know the warning signs, as well as have a plan in place to deal with it.
How to Identify Cyberbullying
Because cyberbullying takes place entirely in a virtual setting, the signs are often different than other types of bullying.
The signs of cyberbullying often include:
- An increase in texting or checking social media sites
- Frequently deleting and making new social media accounts
- Avoiding social situations that they once enjoyed
- Hiding text message screens
Some individuals might withdraw from certain activities they once enjoyed. They might spend more time in their room. You might also notice a frequent change of friends, as the victim withdraws from their peers.
One of the problems with cyberbullying is that with the easy availability of technology, the bullying is often persistent. Unlike with traditional bullying, the tormenter can continue to bully after school and throughout the evening. Also, with numerous forms of technology, the harmful behavior can follow your teen from one location to the next.
How to Prevent Cyberbullying
While not all situations of cyberbullying can be prevented, there are steps that you can take to reduce the chances of your child being exposed to a cyberbully.
Know Who Your Child is Talking To
There are many reasons to be aware of who your child is talking with in an online setting. Not only does the internet expose children and teens to dangerous risks like inappropriate behavior and sexual exploitation, but they can also be easily targeted as a victim of cyberbullying. Get to know what your teen is doing online and who they are regularly communicating with in the following ways:
- Know which websites your child uses frequently
- Set up your own accounts to better get to know them
- Ask them questions about their internet use
- Require that they share passwords and logins to all online accounts
Most parents would not let their child leave the house with a group of friends they didn’t know already. Safe internet browsing requires the same awareness.
Use Privacy Controls
Privacy controls allow your child to choose who they want to share posts and photographs with online. It is also important for parents to teach children the importance of protecting, and changing, their password frequently. Educate them on the risks of giving out their password, like the possibility of bullies posting or sharing inappropriate or personal information. Most social media and chat platforms have resources built-in that allows users to manage their privacy settings.
Find Ways to Destress
Whether your child is being bullied or is the bully, finding ways to deal with stress is important in managing online bullying. Some teenagers will turn to the internet to vent frustrations with school, life, relationships, or any other issues they are currently facing. Victims of cyberbullying might find it difficult to separate the virtual bullying from other aspects of their life.
Here are a few ways you can help your child destress:
- Set time limits on technology usage
- Encourage a good night of sleep
- Encourage outdoor recreation and entertainment
- Plan for family time, free of technology use
Failing to deal with the expected stressors of life paired with cyberbullying can lead to decreased self-esteem and in some cases, even depression. Provide your teen with the tools they need to overcome stress and build self-esteem.
Set up an Action Plan
Many teens will have to deal with cyberbullying in one way or another, so it is important to set up an action plan ahead of time.
Your action plan might include things like:
- When and who to notify in the event of cyberbullying
- An agreement to not respond to threats or intimidation online
- An agreement to avoid seeking revenge
- The process of recording situations of cyberbullying
Awareness and education are also important in preventing and overcoming cyberbullying. In addition to taking steps to prevent cyberbullying, it is also crucial to educate your child on the risks and how to deal with it. Acknowledgment of what your child is going through can be impactful. Cyberbullying can leave the victim feeling isolated and afraid. Let them know that they are not alone and that a large percentage of individuals deal with cyberbullying, both children and adults.
Setting up an action plan means not only teaching your child about what to do if they are the victim of cyberbullying, but also what they should do if they witness another child being bullied.
How to Find Help After Cyberbullying
Remind your child, and yourself, that there are many places to turn to for help including the child’s teacher, principal, counselor, or parents. Many schools have implemented plans to identify and handle reports of cyberbullying. If your child has been the victim of cyberbullying, be sure to report it to the school.
Additionally, many internet programs will allow you to report certain, offensive language or behaviors. In addition to privacy controls, there are also many parental controls that allow you to filter and block out certain content. Talk to them about their online friends and use tools like Instant Social Report help track down their social media/email information. You never know who might be a predator in disguise.
Navigating cyberbullying can be difficult as a parent. Cyberbullying can follow children and teens home from school and affect them late into the night. Learning to recognize the signs of cyberbullying, as well as knowing how to handle it will ensure that your children stay safe, and happy when using the internet.
If you’ve received threats or angry messages, you don’t have to be in the dark about who this person is. There are tools to help you find and stop cyberbullies.
Instant Social Support is a website that searches any email account. Plug in the email, hit search, and the site displays information about that person’s account. Instant Social Report backtracks emails to their social media accounts, tracking down important information about people who may know you. And it’s completely free. Try it out at https://instantsocialreport.com/landing/home