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Unfortunately, cyberbullying is becoming more common. Just as with old-fashioned playground bullying, cyberbullying involves aggressive and negative action taken against a child. However, unlike previous bullying, where the bully could be identified and avoided, cyberbullying is accomplished through email, direct messaging, Facebook posts, or mobile phone messages, and can be anonymous. Additionally, there is no limit on the frequency or intensity of cyberbullying – it can happen any time of the day or night and anywhere you child happens to be.
As a parent, you need to be aware of the signs of cyberbullying, so that you can protect your child and help them deal with the feelings of alienation and the stress that often accompany cyberbullying. The first step is to recognize the signs of cyberbullying.
Change in Computer or Mobile Phone Usage
Kids have favourite computer sites they access frequently. In order to determine if this is changing, you need to be familiar with the sites they view. It is always a good practice to have a clear view of your child’s computer screen. Placing the computer where it faces the traffic path can accomplish this subtly. If you notice a change in the sites they visit, ask them why they no longer go to certain sites. This may prompt an admission that cyberbullying is taking place.
If your child quits using their mobile phone or appears upset after receiving a call, they may be receiving cyberbullying calls. Try to check their phone when it is being charged to see if it contains any cyberbullying messages. You should not feel guilty doing so as it is your responsibility to be aware of your child’s activities and protect them from cyberbullying.
Changes in Personality
Your teen or pre-teen will naturally have short periods of withdrawal as they deal with the pressures associated with the teen years. However, if the period lasts longer than a week or so and your teen seems uncomfortable talking to you, it may be that cyberbullying is involved.
You child may also appear unusually sad, moody, or anxious. Family outings may be avoided, as well as interaction with siblings. Basically, if you feel your child is not behaving normally, cyberbullying may be the reason.
Avoidance of School or Social Activities
Sleeping late and missing the bus, leaving school and coming home early, or complaints of not feeling well so that school can be missed are signs that cyberbullying is being avoided. If afterschool activities or athletic participation ceases, this may also indicate cyberbullying.
If you child begins to avoid friends or complains that they “. . . have no friends,” this is also a warning sign. They may talk specifically about disliking a particular person or group of people. They may also avoid contact with their peers, especially on their computer or mobile.
Poor Academic Performance
If your child’s grades begin to drop, this could be a sign of cyberbullying. Additionally, avoidance of homework, lack of communication about school grades, or hiding report cards or progress reports are all signs of possible cyberbullying. It is not easy protecting your child from bullying and it is even harder with the advent of cyberbullying.
However, knowing the signs of cyberbullying can prepare you for dealing with this threat quickly and effectively.