Cyber Bullying – How to spot it, and stop it.
With young people today doing almost everything online, it was only a matter of time before bullying also became virtual. Cyber Bullying is one of the most common forms of harassment today, with 52% of young people admitting to having been bullied online, with 1 in 3 having experienced it repeatedly.
Figuring out how to spot the signs that it is happening to your child is the first step. The NCPC have drawn up the following list of tell-tale behaviour to look out for:
– Becomes withdrawn or shy
– Shows signs of depression
– Is extremely moody or agitated
– Is anxious or overly stressed out
– Shows signs of aggressive behaviour
Social or Behavioural
– Suddenly stops using the computer
– Changes eating or sleeping habits (e.g., nightmares)
– No longer wants to participate in activities they once enjoyed
– Hurts self, attempts or threatens suicide
– Suddenly changes friends
– Doesn’t want to go to school
– Gets into trouble at school
– Skips school
– Loses interest in school
– Drops in grades
If you believe your child is being cyber bullied, you should approach them gently, and ask them what’s happening as calmly and open-heartedly as possible. Most children struggle to tell their parents if they’re being bullied, so be prepared for them to avoid talking to you about it, but simply by letting them know that you’re there for them – and that you want to help – can encourage them to open up.
If it turns out that your child is being bullied, there are lots of things that you, and they, can do.
Help them to understand that it’s not their fault. Children who are victimised can begin to believe that they deserve the treatment they receive. Work to show them how special they are, and that no one “deserves” poor treatment.
Never respond or retaliate. This is aimed mainly at the child, as responding to the harassment is most likely to be the reaction the bully is after. By ignoring the ill-treatment, they can begin to regain some control of the situation. However, as a parent, it can be also be very difficult not to lash out when you discover that someone has been causing your child distress. The best course of action is to calmly bring this child’s behaviour to the attention of their parents. Hopefully they will be able to help you prevent it from happening again in the future.
Finally, work to restore your child’s self-respect. It is this aspect of their personality that is likely to be most damaged, as bullying chips away at a person’s self esteem. How best to do this depends very much on the child, but you know them better than anyone – and you can help them get there.
Sadly, it’s also worth noting that there are signs to look out for that point to your child engaging in bullying behaviour online:
– Stops using the computer or turns off the screen when someone comes near
– Appears nervous or jumpy when using the computer or cell phone
– Is secretive about what they are doing on the computer
– Spends excessive amounts of time on the computer
– Becomes upset or angry when computer or cell phone privileges are limited or taken away
If this is the case, there are also steps you can take to try and stop them from cyber bullying other people.
Explain that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. Stop any show of aggression you may see, and talk to your child about other ways they can deal with how they’re feeling. Try to get them to empathise with the person they have been unkind to, as most cyber bullies rarely look at the situation from the perspective of their victim.
Limit, and monitor, their internet usage. Explain that until they prove that they understand how to behave appropriately online, they will have their access restricted to times when you can be there to see what they’re doing. This may mean confiscating their cell phone, tablet or computer – or changing the wifi password so they no longer have access.
Try to find out what caused this behaviour to occur. Ask you child – did something happen to them to make them act in this way? Is there something going on at home, or school, that is causing them to lash out? Try to discover the root of the problem, and work to deal with it.
Explain the severity of what they are doing. Most children who bully other children online are unaware that their actions could be considered illegal.
Ask them to stop, now. Make it clear that you will not tolerate this type of behaviour, and explain the consequences your child will suffer if they continue. You should also encourage them to apologise to the victim.
There are lots of organisations out there to help children who are being bullied online, and their parents. For a full list, see Safe Network.