Most adults over 30 never had to deal with cyberbullying because it’s a fairly new thing. For young people in America it’s a very real, very scary part of life. Stopbullying.gov says that 20% of girls and 10% of boys are the target of cyberbullying at some point in school. It was the mid 2000’s and the explosion of smart phone usage that brought cyberbullying to the forefront. There was no longer any escape for the bullied; their antagonists could continue to bully them at home.
If you think your son or daughter might be the target of cyberbullying, trust your instincts and get involved. Pay attention to your child and how they’re acting. If they say they don’t want to talk about it, encourage them that sharing won’t get them in trouble and you only want it to stop as well. Changes in their actions and behaviors will give clear indicators about what’s happening online and at school. Be on the lookout for the signs of bullying.
- Avoiding the topic, and not wanting to discuss bullying.
- Being withdrawn or unusually quiet after using the phone or internet.
- Emotional detachment.
- Being secretive or protective of a device.
- No longer interested in hobbies, sports, or social activities with friends or family.
- No desire to go to school.
- Grades begin to slip or lack focus on school work and studies.
- Lack of appetite and changes in behavior or mood.
- Sudden and chronic illness. This could be an excuse not to go to school to avoid the bully, but you should first rule out the possibility of it being real.
- Dislike and withdrawal from all social media platforms.
- Anxious or nervous behavior over receiving an e-mail, IM, or text message.
What to do about it
Start with knowing which social media sites and apps your kids use and ask to be shown their pages to better understand how they’re being targeted. Take the time to monitor online activity with apps like bark and Net Nanny, but only if you have your child’s permission first. Monitoring them in secret may make them distrust you more. Threats of taking away computers or phones will only make your child more secretive about what’s happening, so just let them know you only want to keep an eye on their safety. It’s important not to under-react to the situation either. Telling your kid to ignore the problem won’t make it go away.
Once you know what’s happening, make the school aware of what’s going on. Give them all the information you have so they can help. If there are threats of physical violence or spreading of sensitive images, then contact law enforcement as well. Reporting on cyberbullying once is not always enough, so it might take persistence to truly end it.
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