With the rise of technology and the internet, new doors of communication also opened. Socializing is now easier than ever. The internet allows us to mingle with other people, whenever and wherever we want. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that every interaction we have online would be pleasant. In fact, electronic aggression became so common that the term cyberbullying was coined. Cyberbullying is characterized as any form of humiliation, harassment, degradation, aggravation or coercion that happens in a virtual setting. Usually, social media sites like Facebook or Twitter is the common venue for such acts. This is because social media sites have different features that allow their users to interact with each other such as the ability to leave comments under posts, direct messaging or chatting, and many more. It is also possible to register an account under a fake name or alias, making it possible for online trolls to hide behind a mask of anonymity and leave a nasty comment about someone with the intention of bringing them down.
How can you stop your kid from being a victim of cyberbullying?
The best way to help your child avoid electronic aggression is by talking to them. Teaching them how to recognize and react to signs of online aggravation can make or break their internet experience. You need to make them understand that instead of letting the hate get to them, the wiser course of action would be to block and report. Tell them that collecting evidences or screenshots could be useful too. Since cyberbullying is considered as a crime in several states, doing so could give you and your kid leverage if you ever decide to press charges. The point is, if you don’t start the conversation about it, then they might be inclined to not say a word about it to you when it actually happens to them either. By talking to them about it, you are not only arming them with knowledge that could help them protect themselves, you are also opening the doors of trust and communication between you and your kids regarding online or personal matters.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to protect your children from the world. With the internet, their world becomes bigger. If you continue to be unaware of the dangers that your kid might face online, you are also letting them continue to be vulnerable from such threats. So if you want to have a better chance of protecting your children from being a victim of cyberbullying, read on.
What is cyberbullying?
As stated earlier, cyberbullying is defined as a form of harassment that manifests in online channels such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media. Abusers or cyberbullies usually use a dummy account to hide their identities, making it harder for authorities to catch the culprit. It could come in a form of a nasty comment under your son’s or your daughter’s post, a message with a disrespectful nature, a post making them a target of humiliation, a blackmail of spreading private information/pictures, and many more.
All of these things have one thing in common: its goal is to damage the self-esteem and confidence of the one at its receiving end. As a result, victims of cyberbullying usually suffer from anxiety and depression triggered by the online attacks. In fact, a study claimed that victims of bullying are 2 to 9 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Victims of cyberbullying are often teenagers. A study revealed that nearly 43% of those who have been bullied online are still in their teen years. This is likely because their generation are the ones that are more adept with technology. The internet is a staple in their everyday lives, visiting social media sites is a part of their daily routine.
How to know if your child is being cyberbullied
Although a good number of young people have admitted to being victims of online abuse, only 1 in 10 victims actually talks to their parents or any trusted adult about it in fear of being judged or misunderstood. As a parent, you need to be able to recognize the telltale signs of being bullied. This way, you can protect your kids whether they decide to tell you or not.
Some of these signs include:
- Being fussy or agitated when receiving texts or emails
When this happens, it’s probably because they’re talking to someone that they don’t want to be talking to. Some cyberbullies usually reach out to their target to taunt and intimidate them.
- Aversion with going to school
An article said that offline and online bullying sometimes go hand in hand. If your child is extremely unwilling to go to school, don’t dismiss it as just them being lazy. It could be because they’re afraid of confronting something, either the bullies or the aftermath of what they’ve done.
- Hiding any traces of their online activity
Victims of cyberbullying might usually hide any trace of their online activity from their family to avoid shame or prejudice. If your child is going through extreme measures to hide their social media activities, something’s probably wrong.
- Inexplicable rage or desolation during or after going online
Stress might manifest through sudden mood swings. If your child displays agitation or distress, something is certainly making them feel this way. Whatever the cause might be, it’s important for you to approach them and let them open up.
- Distancing from their friends and family
Isolating oneself from others is a red flag for depression. When this happens, it’s essential that you let them know that they can always turn to you. If at first they wish for a time for themselves, don’t pressure them. Just assure them that whatever it is that they’re facing, they don’t have to do it alone. Eventually, they’ll come to you when they’re finally ready to talk about it.
- Sudden change in behavior or disposition
This is another sign of depression. If your kid, who used to be all sunshine and smiles, suddenly became all quiet and gloomy, something’s up.
This one is an absolute red flag. If you see it on your children, don’t dismiss it ever. It is a huge indication that they are going through something that is taking a massive emotional toll on them. It is during these times that they need you the most.
If you ever see any of these signs on your son or daughter, talk to them. Assure them that they can tell you everything and that you’re always there for them. You must always be your children’s safe place, because, at the end of the day, it’s you and them against the world.
How to stop cyberbullying
The most effective way of helping your children deal with cyberbullies is by giving them the knowledge that they could use to protect themselves from online predators. You could use this opportunity to talk to your kids about the internet and proper online behavior.
Here are some tips that you could give regarding ways of dealing with cyberbullying:
- Tell someone.
Instead of hiding it and dealing with it alone, talking about it with a trusted adult is going to make a whole lot of difference. Aside from you or your spouse, it could be their teacher, a counselor, or even an older peer. These adults would probably know what to do and how to handle the situation better.
- Collect evidences.
Instruct them to take a screenshot or screen record every time they see something online that seems to be attacking them. Posts are usually very easy to delete in social media. Having evidences would give you the upper hand when you report the crime to the authorities. This would prevent them from denying their actions when confronted for it.
- Report and block.
Most social media sites give you the option to report posts that you deem hateful and inappropriate. Doing so would alert the site to take it down and remove it from your timeline. You could also block certain users that you don’t want to interact with in your account at all. A block prohibits that user from ever reaching you in any way.
- Fix your privacy settings.
Another feature that could help them avoid bullies is the adjustable privacy settings. Most social media sites give the power to control who sees and interacts with you on your account. By making their account accessible only to those they know, it decreases the chances of them being targeted by a random troll or someone with a fake account.
- Never hesitate to hold the bullies accountable.
Don’t think twice about reporting it. It doesn’t matter if you choose to go to the police or school authorities, the cyberbullies deserve what’s coming for them. Let your kids know that you always have their back once they’ve decided to come forward about it.
Cyberbullying is a serious issue that shouldn’t be trivialized and ignored. It is a problem that might affect your children negatively. As a parent, making sure that your kids stay safe both online and offline must be your priority. Before letting them wander off into the internet, educate them about the risks and dangers that they might encounter. Make sure that they’re always being smart and careful.