Cyberbullying (online bullying) - parent/carers guide

Cyberbullying (online bullying) - parent/carers guide
Photo by Morgan Basham / Unsplash

As a kid growing up I think I was quite fortunate at school that I never became a target for bullies in the normal sense, I did receive sectarian abuse because people heard an English accent and assumed I was English, but I was never a victim of sustained bullying.

Looking back it was always quite easy to see who was a target of the bullies, you could quite often physically see the bullying happening, teachers could see it, parents might even hear or see it.

As with grooming, bullying has moved online too and is therefore much harder to witness physically, the advent of social media has done little to diminish the threatd posed by cyberbullying and in many ways has exacerbated the problem.

Types of cyberbullying:

  • sending threatening or abusive text messages
  • creating and sharing embarrassing images or videos
  • trolling – the sending of menacing or upsetting messages on social networks, chat rooms or online games
  • excluding children from online games, activities or friendship groups
  • shaming someone online
  • setting up hate sites or groups about a particular child
  • encouraging young people to self-harm
  • voting for or against someone in an abusive poll
  • creating fake accounts, hijacking or stealing online identities to embarrass a young person or cause trouble using their name
  • sending explicit messages, also known as sexting
  • pressuring children into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual conversations.

Signs of cyberbullying:

Cyberbullying will of course harm the mental health of a child and as with other mental health issues there is no single sign that indicates something is wrong, but as always communicating with your child is the best way to know if there is a problem. Here are a few signs to be aware of:

  • being afraid to go to school, being mysteriously 'ill' each morning, or skipping school
  • not doing as well at school
  • asking for, or stealing, money (to give to whoever's bullying them)
  • being nervous, losing confidence, or becoming distressed and withdrawn
  • bullying others.
  • being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
  • being very secretive or protective of their digital life
  • spending more time than usual in their room
  • withdrawal from or lack of interest in family members, friends, and activities
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
  • suddenly wanting to stop using the computer or device
  • being nervous or jumpy when getting a message, text, or email
  • avoiding discussions about computer or phone activities

Effects of Cyberbullying:

Children have almost constant access to their devices, so cyberbullying is hard to escape. Young children and teens can feel like they never get a break and feel the effects very strongly.

Cyberbullying that is severe, long-lasting, or happens a lot can cause anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders in victims and bullies. Sadly in some rare cases, children have attempted or died from suicide.

How can you help them?

  • Offer comfort and support.
  • Let your child know that it's not their fault.
  • Notify the school.
  • Encourage your child not to respond to cyberbullying.
  • Keep records.
  • Seek therapy services for your child.

Other things, some that I have mentioned in my previous YouTube videos, may prevent future cyberbullying:

  • Block the bully. Most devices have settings that let you electronically block emails, messages, or texts from specific people.
  • Limit access to technology. Although it is hurtful, many children who are bullied can't resist the temptation to check websites or phones to see if there are new messages. Keep the computer in a public place in the house and put limits on the use of mobile phones and games. You might be able to turn off text messaging services during certain hours, and most websites, apps, and smartphones include parental control options that give parents access to their childrens' messages and online life.
  • Monitor use of social media. A number of programs and apps can monitor teens' social media accounts and alert parents to any inappropriate language or photos. Many software programs and apps are available — from free to expensive — that can give you detailed reports of your child's browsing history and tell you how much time your child spent online and on each site.
  • Know what sites your child uses. This as an opportunity to encourage young children and teens to teach you about something they know well — technology! This shows your child that you are interested in how they spend their time online, while helping you understand how to best monitor their online safety.
  • Be part of your kids' online world. Ask to "friend" or "follow" your child on social media sites, but do not abuse this privilege by commenting or posting anything to your child's profile. Check their postings and the sites children visit, and be aware of how they spend their time online.
  • Put it in writing. Write smartphone and social media contracts for your children that you're willing to enforce.

I hope this blog post has been useful and just remember if you have good communication with your child then you have already won half the battle.

Stay safe all and remain vigilant!