Kids today spend a massive part of their day on the internet. From attending virtual classes to using multiple social media platforms, there is no escaping the World Wide Web.
However, this increased use of technology comes with its fair share of concerns, the biggest being cyberbullying.
What Constitutes Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying essentially means using digital technologies to hurt, threaten or embarrass someone. It can be carried through electronic devices using a host of social media applications, gaming platforms, chat rooms and the likes.
Things such as circulating embarrassing pictures of someone, morphing pictures for purposes of threatening and intimidation, or leaking someone’s private information all constitute cyberbullying.
Sending derogatory messages on social media or using vile messages as an intimidation tactic to ridicule someone also forms a part of cyberbullying.
How Do You Know Your Child Is Being Cyberbullied?
With more and more kids increasingly spending their days online, it can be hard to escape being bullied online.
It is a serious matter and the signs can be instantly noticed. Your child may behave differently from their usual self and exhibit signs of anxiety, nervousness and even shame.
The impact of cyberbullying is not merely mental but there could be marked physical signs such as anxiety, causing a lack of sleep, continuous headaches, loss of appetite and the likes.
Lastly, your child may even recoil and shy away from public interaction because of feeling unloved, embarrassed, or ashamed.
More often than not, it will be a combination of the above symptoms that will tell you that not all is right with your child.
What Effects Can Cyberbullying Have on Your Child?
Being bullied can leave an indelible mark on children. These are experiences that get deep seated and many times resurface in adulthood, leading to a series of problems.
It can also severely interfere with your child’s right to have a healthy childhood.
Cyberbullying can cause changes to someone’s disposition, make them anxious in public settings and induce nervousness at the thought of using technology.
Severe bullying can have both emotional and mental impacts and often children at the receiving end of bullying struggle to make friends. Their trust in healthy human relationships also gets severely impacted.
Not only this, but cyberbullying can also impact your child’s academic performance and family life. In some cases, it also induces a tendency to bully others, while in extreme cases children can even attempt to end their life.
What Can You Do to Stop Your Child from Being Cyberbullied?
Since there are severe impacts of cyberbullying, it is crucial to deal with it proactively. If you notice visible changes in your child, you need to take action as timely intervention can make a big difference.
Here are a few ways you can step up to help your child and stop them from being bullied online.
Be Open with Your Kid
In today’s day and age, it is crucial to develop and maintain a healthy relationship with your child. Make them feel loved and cared for. A protective, nurturing environment at home will make them instantly open up to you should they feel some trouble.
The point is that as a parent you should be approachable and not intimidating.
This way you would become aware of the situation before it becomes serious or unmanageable.
Make Yourself Technology Literate
This cannot be overemphasized. Many parents do not understand what social media is and how it functions and that is why kids feel that they can’t reach out to parents.
Sometimes, parents feel these things are trivial when in reality this is where your child spends the maximum time.
Try to educate yourself about the various social media platforms, gaming platforms and likes. Make sure you periodically see what your child does online. This doesn’t mean you have to police your child but being aware of things doesn’t hurt.
Talk to Your Kids About Bullying
It is so important to confront the issue sensitively. Brushing things under the carpet is only going to aggravate the problem.
You must have an open conversation with your child about bullying and that the shame is not for them to wear. This may help them open up. They are bound to feel loved, cared and protected. Having a parent have their back will help kids shun feelings of embarrassment sooner.
Never Blame Them
If your child is going through a hard time, your first impulse should not be to shame them or hold them responsible for what’s happening to them.
That will only make matters worse and increase the distance between the two of you while making their symptoms and feelings worse.
Bullying is terrible and is never the victim’s fault. You should be supportive and show them you are willing to work with them to find a solution.
‘Just Deal with It’ Is the Worst Thing You Can Say to Your Child
Some parents are believers in tough training and their reaction to their child getting bullied could be to let it be or simply move on. This is a horrible approach to the problem and can have a long-lasting impact on your child.
Your approach as a parent should be to handle the situation sensitively and not give in to the impulse of tough love. It is never okay to shrug off the emotional impact of bullying. As a parent, you need to step up.
Seeing a counselor is a good idea because we are not trained to handle the mental and emotional trauma that accompanies bullying.
An expert will be able to handle the issue sensitively. At times, children find it easier to open up to an unknown person as opposed to a parent.
Giving Up the Internet Is Not the Solution
One of your first reactions to hearing that your child is being cyberbullied could be to cut off all access to the internet. You may feel protective, but that’s not the right approach.
Going off the internet is not going to ward off feelings of shame, embarrassment, or hurt. On the contrary, it may impact your child’s self-esteem and they may never be able to shrug off these feelings.
You need to find a better way to deal with the issue than censoring your child’s internet use. Furthermore, the online world has a lot to offer and has many benefits. Why should your child lose out on that for something that’s not even his/her fault?
You need to get help from multiple sources and report bullying. It may be possible that your child is reluctant to do this at the time but no one should get away with abhorrent behavior.
A therapist or cybersecurity cell in your area will have the leads on how to report and all that it entails.
Online bullying leaves a lot of digital footprints. Make sure to use evidence to strengthen your case.
Sometimes cyberbullying entails physical threats and these must be definitely reported to the police.
Two Wrongs Don’t Make One Right
The reaction to bullying should not be bullying. In addition to teaching your child healthy coping mechanisms, you must also teach them to never retort by bullying.
There are ways to deal with bullies but becoming one is never a good idea.
Liaise with the School Authorities
Cyberbullying is often accompanied by bullying offline. Talk to your child and try to find out the source and liaise with the school authorities to get to the bottom of the matter.
Children who bully others are often dealing with their own issues and it is worth talking to their parents.
Multiple levels of intervention may help improve a bad situation.
Create Your Own Happy Hour
Kids who experience bullying online may lose appetite for all things fun. Make sure to create a happy, loving environment at home where they do something that they love or used to love.
This may be a cathartic experience and can help them overcome negative feelings sooner.
Make Sure It Doesn’t Happen Again
Technology is a wonderful thing if dealt with properly. If your child is being bullied online, make sure you are able to make it a one-off incident.
There are privacy controls on almost all social media channels that can prevent your child’s bully from contacting them or seeing what they post online. Make sure to turn them on.
Be extra careful the next time and keep the communication with your child transparent and open. Next time if such a situation emerges, intervene at the earliest.
Prolonging therapy with a counselor can often make your child resilient to future bullying. Make sure you complete the prescribed sessions of therapy.
Cyberbullying is a terrible thing to happen to anyone more so to a child or young adult. Unfortunately, it is more widespread than we would like to acknowledge.
But if you catch the early signs, you can help fast track your child’s path to recovery and give them the loving childhood they deserve.
This Video Is Also Worth Watching (recommended as parent)
We also highly recommend reading our full guide on Internet Safety for Kids, It is a full guide with information that will help your kids stay safe online, we hope all this information helps and creates a safe environment for your family.
Please feel free to ask questions in the comment section or using our contact form.
Lorenzo has been using the internet for as long as he can remember. He was there for the early days of message boards, he watched social media take over, and he’s excited to see what comes next.