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Preventing, Detecting, and Addressing Cyberbullying:
How Parents Can Help Children Discuss and Overcome the Issue
Guest blog by Laura Pearson
Cyberbullying is a specific type of bullying that happens through technology instead of in person. Cyberbullies may spread a rumor through email, post embarrassing photos on Instagram, or create a fake profile on Facebook. In the United States, almost 43 percent of kids have been bullied online. Understand that if someone is being cyberbullied, they’re often being bullied in person as well. If you’re a parent of a child, you need to know how to prevent, detect, and address cyberbullying. It’s important to help your child discuss and overcome the issue.
Although 70 percent of students have witnessed frequent bullying online, 90 percent of them chose to ignore it instead of report it, and about 75 percent admit they visited a website knowing its content was bashing another student. Not only should you teach children to report being personally attacked, but you should also teach them to report knowledge of others being attacked and to never join in on attacking others. Make sure your children understand what constitutes as cyberbullying.
Keep your computer in a busy area of your home. Set up all accounts with your children so that you know their screen names and passwords, and tell them to never share passwords, not even with friends. Children should never give out personal information in any form on any platform, nor should they share messages and images that they wouldn’t want every classmate to see. Teach your children to avoid sending messages when they’re angry or upset. Before sending a message, your children should consider how they would feel if they received that message.
Only one in 10 victims report cyberbullying to an adult, so don’t rely on being informed by your child. You need to be aware of the warning signs of cyberbullying. The biggest red flag is if your child suddenly stops using the computer or his or her phone. Also, if you child is noticeably upset after a call, text, or time spent on the computer, it can be a sign.
Watch out for your children being secretive about what they’re doing online or with their phones. Other signs include not wanting to go to school, abrupt changes in academics, or sudden social problems. Children who are being bullied may become emotionally withdrawn, depressed, agitated, or have other dramatic changes in behavior and attitude.
Bullying doesn’t always happen in an obvious way. Instead, it can present in one of the three forms of microaggression. Microassaults utilize imagery or language to insult someone’s gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic heritage. Microinsults are negative or insensitive communications that attack someone’s heritage, culture, or identity. Microinvalidation is an intentional disregard for a minority group member’s situation. For example, if someone uses the term “color-blindness” to avoid acknowledging that people of different racial identities have different experiences in life.
If you believe that your child is being cyberbullied, bring up your concerns in a supportive and understanding way. Never imply that your children brought the bullying upon themselves. Don’t threaten to ban your children from technology. The main reason children don’t report cyberbullying is they worry that their parents will become fearful and remove technology privileges.
Even if your child denies being bullied, go over how to handle a bully. For example, instead of responding to a cyberbully, save or print the message or image and show it to an adult. Be proactive in reaching out for help from school counselors and administrators. You may need to contact an attorney or law enforcement officials. In order to determine whether the problem has been resolved or if further action is required, check in with your child frequently.
Cyberbullying is different from in-person bullying because it allows bullies to pick on others 24/7, so the victim feels like he or she can never escape the taunting. Also, messages and images can be posted anonymously, tracing the source is difficult and sometimes impossible, and the effects are immediate and spread to a very wide audience. Once they’re spread, the messages and images are difficult to erase. Experiencing any form of bullying can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse, which is why it’s imperative for parents to know how to prevent, detect, and address cyberbullying.