Cyberbullying is the use of devices, like computers or smartphones, to target someone with harassment, threats, intimidation, or humiliation. Your kids might call it just trolling, drama, or gossip, but it is a serious issue that affects our children and teens.
What is Cyberbullying?
Bullying is abusing an imbalance of power to intentionally do or say hurtful things to someone. Cyberbullying is a new face of this that uses the interconnected world of smartphones and online platforms. Cyberbullies carry even more power than traditional bullies, having access to a much larger audience of bystanders through online platforms, and are able to follow their victim anywhere with online devices.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying has reached news headlines in recent years, as its devastating effects become increasingly apparent. In extreme cases, young people have even taken their own lives over cyberbullying, and more and more youth are hurt by online harassment and threats every year. The severity of the repercussions of this issue extend far beyond the legal issue of prosecuting bullies.
Victims of cyberbullying are at serious risk for depression, low self-esteem, stress and anxiety, aggression, and contemplating or attempting suicide. Cyberbullying can take over your child’s social and online life very quickly, becoming an overwhelming issue they have a hard time escaping from. It has much more potent effects on someone’s mental and emotional wellbeing than traditional bullying.
There are no winners in cyberbullying. Even the bullies themselves often suffer negative effects on their health as a result of their actions. Bullies are at risk to develop aggressive behaviour, to struggle in differentiate right from wrong, and have difficulties establishing relationships. They are also proven to have higher risks for alcohol and substance abuse, academic problems, potential gang involvement, and are at a high risk to be bullied by others.
How Do I Know If My Child Is Being Bullied?
If your child is being bullied online or via their devices, you could notice some changes in their behaviour. Consider that your child could be being bullied if:
- Their online and device use changes dramatically, either increasing or decreasing suddenly.
- They suddenly become more secretive about their online activity.
- They seem upset or withdrawn after receiving messages/texts or going online, or are more emotional (sad, frustrated, impatient, or angry) than usual.
- They begin to withdraw from friends and social situations.
- Their school work falls behind or grades go down, or they are reluctant to go to school.
- They are having trouble sleeping or have a reduced appetite.
What Can I Do To Help?
If your child is being cyberbullied, or is bullying others, there are things you can do to help them cope. Cyberbullying can have devastating effects on kids and teens, so your support is very important.
The first step is to talk to your child about cyberbullying. Try your best to avoid extreme reactions and blame, and instead focus on listening to your child. Keep in mind the traumatic nature of their experience and use open ended questions to develop a conversation about the problem.
The next steps involve stopping the bullying and repairing damages. You can start at home, or bring in outside resources to help you and your child. Schools and law enforcement are often great mediators, while mental health and therapy specialists can help your child’s health.
Cyberbullying has already proven how dangerous it can be with the loss of multiple young lives to suicide. This threat is new territory for most parents, as well as their children. Protecting your child’s emotional wellbeing can be as simple as taking the time to sit down, talk to, and listen to your child about cyberbullying. These simple acts may seem small, but they may also have the potential to save a life.