Updated: Aug 8
Most classes and activities are done virtually these days. This has eased access to educational materials for students as well as enabled them to collaborate conveniently on school projects with their classmates.
On the flip side, this has also made them more vulnerable to cyberbullying. Today, technology offers bullies a whole new platform for their mean acts. While using the internet, kids are likely to wander off from safe sites to websites that expose them to online bullying, such as social media sites, forums, and online gaming platforms.
This affects them emotionally, and young victims are twice likely to commit self-harm or even suicide due to such experiences.
Therefore, parents should take the necessary steps to protect their kids from cyberbullying when using connected devices at home. Read on to learn more about cyberbullying, its challenges and effects, and how to prevent it.
Cyberbullying is the use of technology, particularly online social platforms and digital media, to shame, threaten, or harass other people. Unlike typical physical bullying, cyberbullies don’t need to be superior to their victims. So, anyone can perpetrate such acts.
Cyberbullying can be in different forms, including text, response, discussion, images, and videos, intended to embarrass, demean, threaten, or target others. Perpetrators of bullying can be adults or other kids.
In some cases, a cyberbully can be anonymous, giving them the perfect cover to be even bolder. Plus, the fact they’re not harassing their victims physically is another reason for their unpleasant acts. This means they can torment their victims whenever they want.
Other Terms for Cyberbullying
As a parent, it’s also vital to know that cyberbullying can be referred to in other terms as well. This includes online bullying and online harassment. In most cases, the term “cyberbullying” is used when young people are victims of such experiences.
When adults are involved, it might be referred to as cyberstalking or cyberharassment.
Warning Signs of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is not usually a one-time occurrence. It often happens on more than two occasions. Unfortunately, only 10% of victims of cyberbullying tell someone (usually a parent) about their situation. As parents, you should look out for the following signs that might tell your child is a victim of cyberbullying:
They show emotional distress during or after using the internet or being on their gadgets.
They are overly secretive or protective of their digital life.
They become distant from family members and friends.
They are no longer interested in activities they used to enjoy.
They make up reasons not to go to school.
They have failing grades.
They are jumpy when their gadgets make (notification) sounds.
They eat more or less.
They get into trouble at school.
They have nightmares.
Words and Actions That Can Count as Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying comes in various forms. They can be through words or actions. Calling out offensive names and spreading false rumors are the most common forms of online harassment. Here is a list of some other types of cyberbullying:
Sending unsolicited explicit images to the victim
Sending hurtful or abusive messages
Sharing nude photos of the victim without consent
Constantly asking the victim’s whereabouts
Threatening to cause physical harm to the victim
Urging the victim to inflict harm on themselves or commit suicide
Stealing the victim’s identity and making lewd or undesirable social media posts pretending to be the victim
Creating deepfakes to make fun or damage the victim’s
Reasons Why Kids Engage in Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can happen to anyone. However, children from poor socio-economic households, members of the LGBTQ community, and persons with disabilities are the most likely targets of cyberbullies.
Apart from these factors, teens who report being bullied online also say that it is because of their appearance, academic achievement, race, and religion. Regardless of their targets, kids engage in cyberbullying for different reasons, such as the following:
They want to take revenge.
They like to fit in with a group of friends.
They see everyone doing it.
They are power-hungry and want to maintain their social status.
They lack empathy and cave for attention.
Challenges Parents Face When Faced With Cyberbullying
While online platforms have policies and measures to combat bullying, parents’ role in protecting their kids is even more important. Sadly, several challenges make it hard for them to address the issue.
Kids Fail to Report Cases
One of the biggest challenges is that some kids tend to avoid reporting bullying cases to their parents or other adults. In fact, only 1 out of 10 victims report their cyberbullying experiences.
Some of them tend to assume that they have to handle the issue independently, especially when they get picked on personal things or events. For example, when they get picked on for something “shameful” that they did at a party, they’ll be reluctant to share it.
Other kids worry about their parent’s reactions, so they keep everything to themselves. On the other hand, some kids don’t know what counts as bullying, so such cases go unreported.
Not So Tech-Savvy Parents
Some parents don’t have the technological expertise and experience to monitor and protect their kids. So they might not really grasp the full impact of cyberbullying, making it hard for them to address the issue.
Parents are always advised to seek help when they don’t know how to best help or protect their kids from cyberbullying.
Some platforms have made it easier for bullies to have their way. The lack of anti-bullying policies on some platforms means there are no measures for preventing cyberbullying.
While some platforms have made a great attempt at creating anti-bullying policies, they’re not enforcing them as required. Other sites even lack tools for monitoring and moderating their users.
Steps Every Parent Can Take to Prevent Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can put your kids at risk of depression and anxiety. This can affect their social interactions and school performance. As a parent, there are steps you can take if you believe your kids are victims of online bullying.
1. Educate Yourself
Taking the time to learn and understand more about cyberbullying helps to recognize it in your kids. You need to be able to note changes in your kid’s behavior and identify the right approach to engaging them. Stopbullying.gov and Cyberbullying.org are great resources for educating yourself on online bullying.
2. Exercise Control Over Technological Devices in the House
As a parent, you need to take control of the digital life of your children. Today, smartphones and computers have parental control features, which allow you to limit your kids’ access to specific sites, content, or features. There are also apps and networking devices that offer the same functionality.
3. Be Vigilant of Your Kid's Fake Accounts
Kids use fake accounts to hide their online activities. They also have apps that have been disguised to look like a calculator, yet they’re actually secret social media apps. While this might make them feel invincible, it even makes them more vulnerable to bullying. It’s vital to be vigilant about this and have constant communication with them about the dangers of fake accounts.
4. Be More Involved With Your Kid's Lives Without Being Too Controlling
In today’s digital world, parenting is more eventful. There are lots of things that parents need to monitor to keep their kids safe. It’s advisable to go online with them and get to know their online friends to keep track of their activities.
Help to promote self-esteem by encouraging them to present themselves honestly on social media. Also, it’s imperative to know their school experiences since some of them become the basis of their online bullying.
5. Teach Kids
Kids tend to learn everything about digital media online and from their peers. This can expose them to misleading and inaccurate information. You can protect them from such information by teaching them about social media and digital platforms. Remind them not to share their passwords and personal information with anyone.
Encourage the smart use of social media and chat platforms, such as using block and report features to manage bullies. Remind them that reporting someone helps in staying safe online, but tattling only brings more trouble. So, they need to know that difference.
Also, encourage them not to respond to cyberbullying as bullies usually want them to react. This way, they exploit their emotions to continue bullying them.
6. Don't Be Afraid to Reach Out for Help
Some cases of cyberbullying can be quite overwhelming. It can also be difficult for the not so tech-savvy handle online bullying cases. In this case, it’s vital to seek help from teachers or even the police when there are threats of violence, hate crimes, and child pornography.
You can even consult a lawyer to understand your state’s laws on the different forms of cyberbullying.
7. Get Involved in Bullying Prevention Efforts in the Community and the School
Community involvement can help sensitive kids about cyberbullying and educate them on ways of staying safe online. There are also school-based bullying prevention programs that help engage a diverse group of youth, teachers, and parents on bullying. Getting involved in such programs can help you understand how best to help your kids.
8. Set a Good Example for Your Kids
Good role modeling at home encourages your kids to be on their best behavior, even when confronted online. So, your personal use of social media and electronics should reflect how you want your kids to act. Being good technology role models to your kids helps to install the right values in them, including respect, self-care, accepting responsibility, and kindness.
9. Trust Your Kids
You can’t be monitoring your kids all the time to keep them safe from cyberbullying. As a parent, your fears might get in the way of building a secure attachment with your kids. Instead, you should learn to trust them, even when you’re not around. Kids and teens are usually adventurous, and they’ll always make mistakes, but you have to trust that they’ll correct the mistakes or fix their issues when engaging others online.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Sixty-four percent of people who have been cyberbullied say it affects their ability to learn and feel safe at school. And this just one of the effects of cyberbullying on kids. So, it’s essential to understand how bullying can affect your kids.
Low self-esteem - Cyberbullying affects the feeling and emotions of victims. It makes them disinterested, humiliated, and worthless, and this results in low self-esteem.
Depression and anxiety - Victims also succumb to depression, anxiety, and other stress-related conditions. Depression is usually a result of low self-esteem and self-confidence, which results in isolation.
The feeling of isolation from others - Cyberbullying victims tend to be ostracized and excluded at school. They feel isolated and alone, and this can even worsen their depression and anxiety.
Changes in behavior - Behavioural change is also common in cyberbullying victims. They tend to be angry, withdrawn, and moody. You’ll notice that they suddenly become quiet and will often avoid or even stop using their phones or computers.
Negative effects on their studies - The depressive effect of cyberbullying has a significant impact on students’ academic performance. It reduces their ability to concentrate on schoolwork, and they’ll also skip classes or avoid school-related activities. This results in poor grades in school.
When not addressed, such effects can really take a toll on your kids. For example, severe cases of depression and anxiety can lead to suicidal thoughts. Some kids can opt to change or quit school if they’re regularly experiencing school-related cyberbullying.
In some ways, cyberbullying can be worse than physical bullying. This is because bullies can torment you anytime and anyplace as long as you’re online. As a parent, you have to hold an honest conversation with your kids to understand what’s happening. Be gentle and supportive to allow them to open up.
Figure out together what you can do to make them feel safe. You need to help your child develop a strong sense of personal security and confidence. In their formative years, they tend to be affected by what other people think of them. Helping them through such insecurities helps to prevent emotional breakdowns.
Most importantly, teach them how to use digital media and devices safely, and put in place the right controls to secure or limit their online activities. This includes online gaming, where up to 57 percent of users have been bullied.
Eric C. Alcera, M.D. (August 17, 2020) What Are the Effects of Cyberbullying? Hackensack Meridian Health https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/08/17/what-are-the-effects-of-cyberbullying/
Meline Kevorkian, EdD - Parents Can Prevent Cyberbullying National PTA https://www.pta.org/home/family-resources/safety/Digital-Safety/Parents-Can-Prevent-Cyberbullying
Steven Woda (August 14, 2019) - 10 Ways Parents Can Prevent Cyberbullying uKnowKids https://resources.uknowkids.com/blog/bid/159108/10-ways-parents-can-prevent-cyberbullying
What's the Parents' Role in This? Stop Cyberbullying http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/prevention/parents_role.html
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May 15, 2020 - 15 Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Cyberbullying WebPurify https://www.webpurify.com/blog/15-ways-parents-can-help-prevent-cyberbullying/
The extent and nature of online bullying within digital gaming environments Ditch the Label https://www.ditchthelabel.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/InGameAbuse.pdf
This article was originally published on CustomEnvy.
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