The way kids interact with their peers has changed – and so has bullying. While bullying still happens on the bus, at school, or on the playground, cyberbullying is growing with the problem being it can follow a victim anywhere.
Cyberbullying can be difficult to spot, and often even more difficult to intervene. According to stopbullying.gov, cyberbullying is any kind of bullying that happens online or through a digital device. That being said, cyberbullying isn’t just happening on social media; it can come in the form of personal text messages.
Because it’s all in digital form, cyberbullying brings about a variety of unique concerns. It’s harder for kids to escape because it follows them home, messages are permanent and can be viewed multiple times, and it’s less obvious to parents or educators.
How can you tell if your child is a victim of cyberbullying in the first place? Be receptive if your child exhibits:
- A sudden disinterest or display of anxiety before or after being on a device.
- An avoidance of being on devices when others are in the room.
- Signs of being nervous when they receive an online message.
- Nervousness about going to school or unhappy after returning home
- Suddenly becoming withdrawn or uninterested
The most important thing you can do as a parent is be open to talk with your child and to not judge or blame them. This is a hard topic for children to open up about, as they may feel embarrassed or scared. If they do come to you, listen closely and don’t jump to any conclusions.
Here are steps you can take if your child comes to you about cyberbullying.
- Don’t take away their devices. It can be easy to attribute bullying to the device itself and think “if I take away the device, it can’t happen anymore, right?” Taking things away from your children may make them feel as if they’re being punished. Rather, encourage your child to block or report the user who is bullying them.
- Encourage your child not to reply. Bullies are often seeking a reaction, so tell your child not to give them one.
- Keep a record. With your child’s permission, take screenshots of online activity and save texts. If teachers or officials get involved, it’s good to have evidence of exactly what happened.
- Report. If your child is receiving threats of any kind, you should report it to the school or officials. Most social media platforms also let you report abusive content to have it or the user removed.
Remember to always talk to your child about proper online behavior to make sure they too are treating others right. Cyberbullying can be a difficult thing to identify and address, but knowing the signs and acting calmly can greatly help your child.