No parent wants to hear that their child is being bullied. Today parents have to worry about more than a schoolyard bully as technology has brought about cyberbullying. If you’ve been asking yourself “what is cyberbullying?” you aren’t alone. Many parents have this question. Today we will take a look at how this threat occurs, some special concerns, and how to spot if your child may be a victim.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying where the bully uses devices such as smartphones and computers to attack their victim. The channels of attack are numerous, making this a difficult form of bullying to prevent. Bullies can use texts, apps, social media, chat forums, and even gaming sites. Any platform where content can be shared presents a risk of cyberbullying. While bullying from when I was a child involved shouts and fists, today a bully can use words and images to hurt others. We’ve all heard that sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true today as words can, and do, hurt.
Cyberbullying can involve sharing personal information about a victim, spreading false rumors, and causing a person to feel embarrassed or threatened. While it starts online some unfortunate cases have real world consequences.
Common places where cyberbullying takes place include:
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.)
- SMS and text messaging apps
- Gaming sites (Twitch, Mixer)
- Online forums (Reddit)
The above is certainly not an exhaustive list, but is a good place to start for parents trying to speak with their kids about cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying Special Concerns
No form of bullying is good. Cyberbullying comes with a few special concerns since this form of bullying is carried out via internet connected devices which dominate our lives. Using technology platforms such as social media creates a permanent digital record of our activities, likes/dislikes, friends, family, and behavior. This online record is easily accessible for others. The permanent nature of this record means that cyberbullies may be able to harm a victim today, but the consequences and pain can last for years.
A few concerns unique to cyberbullying include:
- Victims may have difficulty finding relief from bullies as we live in an always on and always connected society
- The permanence of digital content means victims could feel the impact years down the road when applying to college and jobs
- Victims may suffer in silence as parents and teachers may not see the damage being inflicted
The scariest part as a parent is the fact that I may not ever know bullying is taking place until it’s too late. Teachers seem to agree according to a January 2019 Google report that shows cyberbullying is the top online issue for kids in the classroom.
Parents must be on the lookout for warning signs to protect our kids from bullies and to prevent them from bullying others.
Parents should watch for the following warning signs. Some help to identify if your child may be a victim. Other warnings might reveal that your child is bullying others.
Signs Your Child is a Victim
- Increase in requests to avoid school and stay home
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Appears depressed
- Too much or too little sleep
- Stops using their device (phone, gaming console, computer, etc.)
- Eating too much or too little
- Becomes overly secretive
Signs Your Child May Be Bullying Others
- Exhibits an increased concern with popularity
- Becomes unreasonably frustrated if they are denied access to their device
- Uses more than one online account for no valid reason
- Becomes withdrawn from family and friends
- Increased behavioral issues at school
- Won’t discuss what they are doing online
- Becomes secretive with their device (e.g. hides the screen when you walk by)
Parents know their children best and should use discretion when broaching the subject of bullying. Children may not be comfortable admitting they are having trouble with another child. On the other hand no one likes being accused of bullying either. If you happen to notice the above behaviors then investigate further. Some parents may want to discuss the situation directly. Others may be more comfortable using a device monitoring app to gather information before confronting their child.
Regardless of the approach that you take it’s important to let your child know that if they are having trouble you are always available.
Every parent wants what is best for their children. In today’s digital world we must consider and defend against physical as well as cyber threats. Practicing proper online hygiene, like not sharing sensitive information, is a good start. We must also be diligent to know the warning signs of cyberbullying so that problems can be stopped before they get out of hand.