Cyber bullying is a big worry for parents nowadays, especially with all the different social media platforms easily accessible to children. Parents always have their children’s best interests at heart and want to help them, but it is really hard when our children are suffering, and worst of all, when we don’t know it is happening. It is very common these days for children to suffer bullying through the internet, otherwise known as cyber bullying. This article will help parents understand what cyber bullying is, how to recognise it and how to help children stay safe. We provide therapy for children.
What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyber bullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through smartphones and tablets. Social networking sites, messaging apps, gaming sites and chat rooms such as Facebook, XBox Live, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and other chat rooms can be great fun and a positive experience. But what happens when someone decides to use these to target your child several times on purpose?
It is important for parents to understand the age limits on certain apps and websites. Websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are for children over 13 years old. Whereas Whatsapp users should be 16 years and older. This website shows the age limit for all common apps used by children and teenagers today.
Cyber bullying is an umbrella term for all the different kinds of issues that can happen over the internet. It is unsettling that there are so many different ways our children can be targeted:
– Harassment = abusive, rude or insulting messages or comments left on photos or posts.
– Denigration = sending information about someone that is fake or photos that will ridicule or cause gossip about someone.
– Flaming = purposefully causing an argument with someone to cause distress to that person
– Impersonation = hacking into someone’s social media account/email etc or by pretending to be that person online
– Outing and Trickery = sharing personal information about someone or tricking someone into revealing secrets and then passing them on
– Cyber stalking = repeatedly sending violent, abusive messages over the internet
How to Recognise The Signs
There are many reasons why children don’t tell their parents they are experiencing this kind of bullying. They may be worried that if they complain, the bullying will become worse. They might be staying quiet and trying to solve it themselves. They might even be worried that parents will take away their phones or tablets so choose not to say anything. But there are signs that parents/carers can look out for in their children:
– They suddenly stop using the computer, even though they have always enjoyed it before.
– Turning off the computer monitor or change screens every time you walk by
– Not wanting to use the computer/tablet/phone in a place where you can see it.
– Seeming nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text or email.
– Becoming withdrawn
– Not wanting to go to school or appears uneasy about going
These can also be signs of other issues such as depression, grooming etc. It is important that if you start seeing these signs, you address them with your child in a way that is clear you want to help.
How Can I Help My Child and Keep Them Safe?
This is such a difficult situation for parents because you want to trust your child and give them independence on the internet, but also want to keep them safe from any hurt or danger. Below are some ways in which you can help your child if they are being cyberbullied, and ways to keep them safe from it.
– Talk openly to your child. Maybe discuss a bullying incident that happened to you as a child or a news story where a child has been cyberbullied.
– You have the right be in control of their devices. They could leave their phones with you when they go to bed for example and then you can see any messages or apps they have been on and if there are any incidents of cyber bullying.
– Show your child how to block someone on certain apps which will then stop that person being able to contact your child from that profile.
– Report any incidents to the app/website and that person may be removed from that site.
– If their account has been hacked, then change passwords to something that isn’t easy to guess (a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols and numbers)
– Encourage them to not retaliate. It is easy to send angry messages back, but this just adds fuel to the fire and doesn’t resolve the issue.
– Get them to save any messages that they are uncomfortable with. These can be saved and even printed to use as evidence.
– Talk to them about telling their teacher/someone at school. If the bully is someone from their school, then the school have the authority to take action.
– Ensure your child is aware not to give out personal information over the internet.
– Discuss with your child about how any messages or pictures that they send over the internet then are not their property anymore and anyone could take them and do something nasty with them.
– Become friends/followers with your child on their social media platforms
Effects of Cyber Bullying on Mental Health
Bullying can have a range of short and long term effects. These can affect the victim and the bully. Read more about the signs and symptoms and the effects of bullying.