One of the hardest things we go through as parents is knowing how to help our children when they’re hurting. While any bullying is a serious issue, today’s kids also have to worry about a newer threat: cyberbullying. A surprising number of kids are targets of online bullying, and the effects on children can be very serious. As a parent, you need to know how to spot a situation where your child is a victim, what you can do about it, and how to prevent cyberbullying from happening in the first place.
What is Cyberbullying – And How Do You Spot It?
According to stopbullying.gov, cyberbullying is “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets.” This can include texting, social media, and even online gaming arenas. Bullying can be any communication or image that is harmful or mean, and there are some situations in which it is illegal. In some instances, such as the sharing of personal information online or threats being made, you should contact law enforcement for help. When cyberbullying is serious enough that law enforcement needs to be involved or your child is experiencing a great degree of emotional upset, it may be time to hire a digital forensic expert. For example, a group like Secure Forensics can help track incidents and record proof of them to assist in any legal actions.
Because kids are so connected to devices and depend on them for much of their social interactions, this is a problem that can interfere with a child’s daily life and have lasting effects. They can be victimized by harmful comments online even when they’re in the safety of their own home. Children who are victims of cyberbullying can suffer major emotional consequences, to the extent that some are at risk of taking their own life.
With cyberbullying being such a serious concern, parents need to know the signs. Besides some of the classic signs that a child is being bullied (trouble sleeping, acting withdrawn, and so on), pay attention to their behavior in regards to computer or cell phone use. Are they nervous anytime they get a message or are they secretive when it comes to sharing about their online activities? These are common signs of a problem.
How to Respond
Cyberbullying is an upsetting thing, for you and your child, and how you respond can play a big role in how your child handles it. According to Parents Magazine, you don’t want to overreact by blaming your child, because they need to feel supported by you. At the same time, you don’t want to underreact either by acting as though it isn’t a big deal. Having your emotional support is critical so that your child will keep the lines of communication open with you. They need to know that they aren’t in trouble and that you’re there to keep them safe.
How to Prevent Problems
Cyberbullying is an unfortunate reality for far too many kids, but parents and teachers can make a major impact in preventing it.
- Be aware of their online activity: Digital devices have amazing benefits, but online activity can also be harmful to kids. Monitoring your child’s interactions through digital devices reduces the risk of a problem and makes it easier for you to intervene if bullying does occur.
- Build trust: This is an ongoing task that all parents have to work on. Ultimately, we want our kids to be open with us whenever anything bad happens, which means we need to build trust so that they feel safe doing so.
- Teach kids internet safety: It’s our job as parents to protect our children, but when they are active on digital devices, we have to teach them ways they can protect themselves. Moms Team has a great list of tips to teach kids on how they can interact online more safely.
It takes a team effort to deal with cyberbullying, with parents and children working together. The frustrating thing is that cyberbullying is something kids can’t escape from at the end of the day. Fortunately, when we know the signs of trouble, we can protect our kids and help them stay safe and secure online.
Photo credit: Pexels