Cyberbullying has transformed into a menace, literally! Once on the playground, bullies are now hiding behind screens, thanks to the anonymity provided by the Internet. Also, anyone can easily make fake profiles with false information and pictures – masking their original identity or posing as someone they are not – to target their victims and cause harm.
According to a report by Pew Research, around 59% of American teens have experienced harassment or bullying online. Yes, let that sink in. With Safer Internet Day 2019 around the corner, there’s no better time to bring this often-ignored issue to the forefront, so we can focus on preventing it from happening.
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What is Cyberbullying – A Definition
Cyberbullying, also commonly referred to as online bullying, is the intentional act of targeting, harassing, embarrassing, or threatening another person through the use of digital technology such as the Internet and cell phones.
Why is Cyberbullying so Harmful?
Bullying, whether it takes place online or offline, has the potential to cause significant psychological and emotional distress. In fact, victims of cyberbullying are likely to face a plethora of feelings including but not limited to:
- Overwhelmed – Being the target of cyberbullies can feel crushing, especially if a lot of children are involved in the bullying.
- Vulnerable – Victims usually find it hard to feel safe because cyberbullying happens online (via instant messaging, text, email, etc.) and follows them everywhere, unlike other traditional forms of bullying.
- Exposed – Nasty texts or images of the target are usually shared during cyberbullying, causing the child to feel intense humiliation.
- Self-Doubt – Since cyberbullies go after someone’s vulnerabilities, the targets often start to doubt their value and worth. They might even end up harming themselves as a way to respond to these feelings.
- Malice – The victims will feel angry over what they’re being put through, and so they could decide to plot revenge in retaliation.
- Isolated – Children who are cyberbullied may start to feel like the whole world is against them. As a result, they may start isolating themselves at school and sometimes this leads to more bullying.
- Depressed – It’s not uncommon for cyberbullying victims to develop stress-related conditions such as anxiety and depression. This primarily happens because coping with cyberbullying on a daily basis can slowly erase contentment and happiness from their life.
- Suicidal – When children are constantly targeted by their peers, they usually start having feelings of hopelessness. They may even consider taking their own life as a means to end the pain, which makes suicide a serious consequence of cyberbullying.
7 Warning Signs Your Child Is a Victim of Cyberbullying
Now, you may be wondering “How to tell if my child is a cyberbullying victim?” Well, the following are some signs to be on the lookout for:
- They spend too much time online.
- They act out by displaying upsetting or angry behavior to what’s happening on their device.
- They try to hide their device or screen when other people are near, and avoid talking about what they’re up to on their device.
- They suddenly spend less time on their favorite social networks.
- They prefer to spend more time alone, avoiding social situations that they once enjoyed.
- They become unusually depressed or withdrawn.
- They start receiving texts and calls from unknown numbers.
Tips for Cyberbullying Prevention
With children growing up in a time where the Internet is an integral part of their lives, how do we keep them protected from dangers like cyberbullying? Fret not, as here are some useful tips to help parents with just that:
Teach Good Internet Hygiene
While technology like the Internet has changed our life for the better, it also comes with a multitude of risks that you must educate your children about. Moreover, it’s important to teach them responsible online behavior, and you can reduce their risk of falling victim to cyberbullying by establishing rules surrounding Internet use.
Ensure Open Lines of Communication
Keeping lines of communication open is key for parents when it comes to helping their children through cyberbullying. So, regularly talk to them about what online activities they’re engaging in, such as the websites they visit, the people they normally chat with, etc. By doing so, they’ll feel comfortable opening up to you if they’re being cyberbullied.
Watch Out for Warning Signs
If you’re seeing noticeable changes in the behavior of your child, you should try to identity the root cause as soon as possible. If they’re a victim of cyberbullying at the hands of their peers, you can limit the damage by acting early.
Limit Personal Information Online
Make sure your children limit the number of people that have access to their personal information online, such as contact information or details about their interests. This will not only go a long way in limiting their chances of becoming a victim, but also make it easier to identify the cyberbully in the event they do.
Refrain From Escalating the Situation
Never make the mistake of responding with fire with fire – it’ll only provoke the perpetrator and escalate the situation even further. Depending on the severity of the situation, you’re better off ignoring the issue altogether. Wondering why? That’s because cyberbullies more often than not thrive on their victims’ reactions.
Document Incidents of Cyberbullying
If your child is going through cyberbullying, don’t forget to keep a record of what’s happening and where. Take screenshots of all the harmful posts along with their respective dates if possible. This will come in handy when you report the crime to the relevant authorities.
Wishing you all a very happy Safer Internet Day. On this day, let’s pledge to play our part in making the Internet a safer and better place for our children!