What is cyberbullying?
Social media is a common means of connecting with people and friends. The content on social media can be enriching as well as frightful. With unlimited access to the high-speed Internet and devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, the Internet can become a weapon for bullying children.
Cyberbullying is bullying someone through Internet technology. The bully can harass the child (victim) by sending them messages that are embarrassing, harsh, mean, cruel, or inappropriate. The bully often makes a fake account, so you do not know who they are. They can also upload personal information of the victim, such as sensitive photos and videos, over the Internet and take cyberbullying to another level. Any kind of bullying, particularly cyberbullying can be against the law in certain cases.
What are the effects of cyberbullying?
Unlike face-to-face bullying that can be avoided by staying indoors, cyberbullying is hard to escape. Kids use their smartphones or tablets constantly, and cyberbullying can happen anytime, anywhere. They may feel that they have no control over the situation.
Many kids may refrain from telling their parents about cyberbullying because of the fear that their devices can be snatched away from them for obvious reasons. Sometimes, the bully may threaten the child that their life or the lives of their family members may be in danger if they expose the bully, which the child believes.
The emotional impact of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can take a toll on victims by being a significant stressor in their lives. According to studies, three out of every 10 kids who are victims of cyberbullying display at least one symptom of stress.
Cyberbullying can involve sharing nasty posts, messages, or texts posted publicly. This can cause your child to become embarrassed and feel humiliated because now a lot of people come to know about the issue.
Shame and guilt
The bullies may upload your child's sensitive information to the Internet, and that can do a lot of emotional damage to the child. They may develop guilt for going online and bringing shame to themselves and family. It is important to stand strong with your kid and help them realize that it was unfortunate, but you have their back.
For obvious reasons, the child may be anxious and lose interest in their studies, sports, and daily activities. This may set up a cycle of anxiety issues in the future, culminating in a breakdown or depression. It is important to sit with the child and have a heart-to-heart talk regarding her fear.
When kids face cyberbullying, they can avoid meeting their friends or avoid school or group gatherings. This can make them miss out on precious friendships.
To make matters worse, parents can ask their kids to surrender their smartphones to them. This can push the kids into further isolation because smartphones are a major source of connecting with close ones and friends.
Victims of cyberbullying often find it difficult to feel safe. They may feel vulnerable and powerless.
Your child may be a victim of cyberbullying if you spot one or more of the following signs:
- Your child gets upset or scared just after seeing or using their smartphones.
- Your child becomes nervous when their phone beeps.
- Your child becomes very secretive of their digital life.
- Your child loses interest in going out.
- Your child starts isolating themselves from you, other family members, and friends.
- Your child is unable to sleep peacefully at night.
- Your child is eating less than before.
In severe cases, cyberbullying can make your child fall prey to psychiatric issues, such as anxiety and depression. It can also provoke your child to think about taking drastic steps, something as serious as committing suicide.
How can parents help a child who is being cyberbullied?
If you think that your child is being cyberbullied, you can try confronting them directly and asking them politely and gently about the entire story. Here is what to do next.
Educate your child: Instruct your children to ignore and not respond to cyberbullying messages. Responding to the bully may incite the bully to send more harassing messages. Tell them it is OK to tell you whatever happens and that you will be there for them.
Build evidence: Make sure you save all the threatening messages and records of cyberbullying as proof. This can be helpful when things turn ugly and the matter goes legal.
Be supportive and comfort them: Share about your experiences of bullying during your childhood and how you dealt with them. This will make your child feel that they are not the only one facing the problem.
Provide reassurance: Tell your child that it is not their fault that they are being cyberbullied. Tell them that you are in this together. Reassure them that you will find a solution soon.
Inform the school authorities: Many schools have rules for cyberbullying. They can also help you find the bully if they are from the school and support your child.
Seek counseling: If your child is comfortable, seek counseling from a mental health therapist who can work with you and your child to relieve your child's distress.
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"Cyberbullying." Stanford University. <https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/1596>.
Nixon, C.L. "Current Perspectives: The Impact of Cyberbullying on Adolescent Health." Adolesc Health Med Ther 5 (2014): 143-158. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4126576/>.