Cyberbullying has become one of the most prominent types of bullying activity due to the increase in popularity of social media and online communication. The reach of these digital platforms can make this form of bullying even more severe and difficult to manage. For parents, it can be challenging to notice or monitor cyberbullying since much of it happens on a phone or computer.
In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month, we would like to share a few tips on how you can better recognize and address cyberbullying in order to prevent further incidents from occurring.
Unlike traditional forms of bullying that are easily recognized, cyber bullying presents a challenge because it happens behind the scenes on private online platforms. Since people are not physically seeing the bullying occur it can be easily missed. Here are some behaviors and warning signs that you can look for in order to determine if cyberbullying may be an issue for your child.
- You notice a significant increase or decrease in your child’s use of social media or texting. Changes in their regular behaviors could be a sign that something has shifted in their social climate
- Your child begins to have emotional reactions to social media activity or texting. Analyze your child’s facial expressions and mood changes during and after they use their phone or computer. If you see signs of sadness or anger it may be a sign that your child is experiencing negative treatment online
- Your child hides their screen or device when others are near or avoids discussions about what they are doing on their device. This behavior suggests that your child may be concerned or anxious about their online conversations and activity
- You notice that your child has shut down social media accounts or created new ones. Sometimes in an attempt to escape cyberbullying, children may try to delete and recreate accounts in order to gain more acceptance from others or avoid those who may have been tormenting them
- Your child starts to avoid social situations, even those that they enjoyed in the past. Similarly to traditional bullying, children may experience some form of social withdrawal where they no longer feel safe, happy or accepted in certain environments that used to be comfortable
ADDRESSING CYBER BULLYING
If one or more of the above has occurred it is important to begin taking steps to address it so that you can ultimately eliminate the bullying. Every situation is different so not all of these steps may be applicable, but we hope that some of them will be helpful in resolving the issues your child is experiencing.
- Notice –Once you have determined that there may be bullying occurring, start to explore the details. Begin to note when you are noticing the activity and what certain triggers may be. By recognizing a pattern, you will be able to better understand and discuss the bullying with your child.
- Talk – Use the information you have gathered to have a conversation with your child. Ask questions about their behavior and their reactions to online activity. It is important to make these conversations an open dialogue where the child is comfortable sharing. Once the door of communication is opened you will be able to ask more detailed questions about how the bullying started, who is involved, and how serious it is.
- Document – Keep records of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts and content if possible. Bullying is a repeated behavior, so records help to document it and solidify the fact that there is an issue taking place.
- Report – Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies regarding cyberbullying and processes to report it. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it the school. You can also contact the app or social media platform to report offensive content and have it removed. If a child has received physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police. Again, use the documentation you have gathered from step 3 to support your claims in reporting the cyberbullying.
- Support – It is important to positively impact the victim of bullying to ensure that they feel supported and liked by others. Peers, mentors, and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence a situation where negative or hurtful content has been posted. Another form of positive intervention is posting encouraging comments about the person targeted with bullying to try to shift the conversation in an optimistic direction. These things will help to alleviate the pain that was caused by bullying and encourage the victim to look past it and heal.
Sometimes it can be difficult for children to open up to their parents or adults about this issue. Cyberbullying significantly impacts a child’s social network and that may be causing significant fear or anxiety. If you feel that your child is experiencing cyberbullying and are having trouble discussing it with them, please give Cornerstone Counseling a call. We would be happy to assist in addressing and resolving this activity with them!