“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.”
– Benjamin Disraeli
Is your child ready to face the modern bully?
While the arena might have changed – think world wide web rather than playground – the tactics haven’t.
But the digital revolution means the traditional refuge from a bully – the family home – is no longer safe.
We’re talking cyberbullying.
But what are the tell-tale signs your child’s being harassed by a cyberbully?
And what can parents – and carers – do to defeat this online menace?
Let’s take a look.
What is Cyberbullying?
“Cyberbullying is the use of digital technologies with an intent to offend, humiliate, threaten, harass or abuse somebody.”
Rather than the playground, cyberbullying plays out in text, email or on social media.
And it can take many different forms. Examples include:
- Comments, rumours or gossip posted online or sent via email or messaging apps.
- Pictures, videos or personal information posted online without consent.
- Exclusion from online games, activities or friendship groups.
- Hacking of email, social media, online profiles or someone’s device.
- Creating websites or online profiles with the intent to make fun or spread gossip.
- Sending explicit messages or pressuring others to do the same.
- Sending viruses that can damage another person’s devices.
And it’s prevalent.
According to recent research by the anti-bullying charity DitchTheLabel, 7-in-10 young people experience cyberbullying in some shape or form before the age of 18…
The NSPCC recorded an 88% rise in the number of children seeking help for online bullying.
And research by Internet Matters found 62% of parents are concerned about cyberbullying, with 10% aware their child has been involved in a cyberbullying incident.
What’s more, kids are spending more and more time on screens…
…which only increases the likelihood they’ll fall victim to a cyberbully.
With cyberbullying, there is no refuge.
As long as your child has a smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer, cyberbullies can strike.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the day or night.
Nor will a cyberbully spare your child’s because they’re at home, school, or on vacation.
And things can get out of hand, fast.
Comments, pictures or video posted online can be seen and shared by many people, with every Like, Share or ReTweet inflicting every greater pain and shame on the victim.
And it’s incredibly easy to fall into. Kids who would never get involved in traditional forms of bullying can find themselves liking, sharing or commenting on a hurtful post online.
What’s more, when cyberbullies hide behind a fake persona, it can be difficult – but not impossible – to track, making it even more intimidating to those being bullied.
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It can be tricky for parents – and carers – to tell when a child is experiencing cyberbullying.
Kids often play down the symptoms because they’re embarrassed or are scared it will make things worse.
But the effects of cyberbullying can be serious.
Left unchecked, cyber bullying can lead to a variety of problems and undesirable traits including violent behaviour or outbursts, poor grades or attendance at school, substance abuse, self-harm and mental health issues.
So, it’s up parent or carers to be vigilant for the tell-tale signs of cyberbullying including:
- Low self-esteem.
- Social withdrawal.
- Lack of friends.
- Change of personality.
- Evidence of self-harm.
- Reluctance to let parents or carers near their smartphones, tablets or computers.
What’s more, kids who are bullied are more likely to become bullies themselves.
And so the cycle continues from one child to the next.
Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Cyberbullies
Now that you know the tell-tale signs, here’s how to take the fight to the cyberbullies.
- Talk: Find a quiet time to talk to your child about cyberbullying and offer reassurance. Don’t make assumptions or interrupt. Instead, listen to what your child has to say.
- Establish the cause: Try to establish who is behind the cyberbullying, where and when it all started and the reasons why your child feels they might have been targeted.
- Block the perpetrator: Prevent the bully from harassing your child any further by blocking them. Here’s how to block someone on phones, email and social media.
- Record evidence: Take screenshots of the offending posts on forums and social media and save any malicious emails, texts or messages that your child has received.
- Report it: Report malicious emails and social media posts to your internet service provider (ISP). Report malicious texts and messages to your mobile phone provider.
- Increase privacy: If your child is using social media, be sure to set social media privacy settings to high and encourage them not to ‘friend’ anyone they don’t know in person.
- Involve the school: Contact your child principle or teacher, even if the perpetrator is not a pupil at their school. Request a copy of your school’s anti-bullying policy.
- Create tech ground rules: Ensure your child is using the internet and devices appropriately. Set up antivirus, block harmful websites and set safe screen time limits.
- Intervene in person: Nor should you promote retaliation or encourage your child to respond in any shape of from. The cyberbully is seeking a reaction. Don’t give it to them!
- Keep devices in bedrooms: Not only do screens inhibit sleep, but doing so guarantees no rest-bite from a cyberbully. Charge them in a central charging station overnight.
- Do nothing: Follow the advice in the Do’s above and, if you need more help and guidance, the NSPCC has some fantastic resource on cyberbullying for parents and kids.
Overall, the best way to help prevent your child from falling victim to a cyberbully is to promote the safe – and healthy – use of the internet and devices at home.
Remind your child of the following steps:
- Don’t give out personal details online.
- Protect passwords and don’t share login details.
- Ensure Privacy Settings are set to their highest values.
- Think carefully before posting content online or sharing others.
- Limit screen time to get some emotional space from the bullying (especially at night).
- Block harmful web content to avoid threatening or offensive materials.
Has your child fallen victim to cyberbullying? What did you do about it?
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Let us know in the comments below.