As parents, one of our biggest fears for our children is that they will be bullied – or become a bully!
Thinking back to my own school days, I can recall times when I dreaded going to school because I knew that I would have to defend myself from someone tougher and stronger than me. Once I learned to stick up for myself, life got a lot easier although I was aware that my bully probably just moved onto an easier target.
These days it’s a lot harder to control bullying than ever before, not least because it can happen anywhere – at school, at home, out and about – and online.
So what is Cyberbullying?
When bullying happens online, we call it cyberbullying. This can be any bullying that takes place online through the use of electronic devices or via social media.
With cyberbullying, the bullying can take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week no matter where you are and therefore, it can often feel like there is no escape. It follows children into spaces where they should be able to feel safe. More than that, those who are being bullied online are often, although not always, experiencing bullying in person at the same time.
As parents, it is important we know what to look for with regards to both the methods used in cyberbullying and the effects that it could have on our children, so that we can recognise it and deal with it.
Examples of Cyberbullying
- Sending threatening or abusive text messages or via social media (‘trolling’)
- Creating or sharing embarrassing images or videos
- Setting up hate sites or groups about a particular child
- Encouraging young people to self-harm
- Creating fake accounts, hijacking or stealing online identities to embarrass a young person or cause trouble using their names
- Sending explicit messages, also known as ‘sexting’
Signs that your child is being bullied online
- Health issues – this might include problems with sleeping, having nightmares and changes in eating
- Behavioural issues – your child might become withdrawn or alternatively they might become more aggressive
- Poor performance in school – a bullied child would be more likely to skip school or to have issues with their performance
- Anti-social behaviours – Children who are bullied are more likely to use drugs and alcohol
- Have lower self-esteem and may have thoughts about self-harm or suicide
How to Deal with Cyberbullying
- As a parent, communicate with your children about how they use the Internet
- Encourage your children to speak to you about any cyberbullying they experience or witness
- Don’t engage with any cyberbullying messages and block the person who is involved in the cyberbullying
- Keep records of cyberbullying and take photos, save emails and texts where possible
- Report any cyberbullying behaviour to online service providers so that they can take action
- Where appropriate, report the cyberbullying activities to the police – for instance, in cases of threats of violence
- As cyber-bullying is often related to bullying in-person, inform your school so that they can prevent any bullying in the “real world”
Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.
If you think that your child might be a cyberbully and are not sure how to handle the situation, you can find some advice here.