Ways to educate and prevent your child from becoming a victim of cyberbullying
Is your chatty and cheerful little girl becoming unusually withdrawn, anxious, and irritable? Do you notice your child becoming overly conscious about their weight, refusing to eat their favourite foods? Do you see them becoming tense and stressed every time they open up their smartphones?
These are some of the signs that help parents identify deep-rooted trauma and stress emanating from cyberbullying. We all hear stories of trauma and watch gripping narratives in movies and TV shows. But we never once imagine our children getting victimised and bullied online. It happens more often than not, so educating yourself about cyberbullying is crucial to help your children.
Parents must educate themselves in the complexities and forms of cyberbullying to protect their children. Bullies are everywhere, and the digital space gives them the freedom and tools to get creative with their attacks. At times, cyberbullying is easy to identify and prevent. For instance, your child can approach you with a mean text, harsh comments, or posts ridiculing their physical or mental attributes.
However, sometimes children hesitate to share photographs, videos, or posts depicting their personal information in a harassing manner. It’s common for children and teenagers to fall prey to fake accounts and even schoolmates using photos and videos to embarrass them. How can you help your child prevent and fight this cruelty and harassment?
First, you must educate yourself and use this knowledge to help your little ones fight the trauma with confidence and empowerment. So, what is cyberbullying? and what are the signs that help identify victims and bullies? Cyberbullying is the use of technology to embarrass, harass, threaten or abuse an individual.
Cyberbullying gives rise to lasting and intense trauma, anxiety, depression, and stress. It typically occurs on digital devices and platforms, such as computers, smartphones, social media, gaming platforms, and even via email. Many victims end up getting diagnosed with stress-induced mental illnesses, while others attempt or die from suicide.
Recognising the Signs
Cyberbullying often involves information that children and teens want to keep hidden from teachers, parents, and adults. In other cases, children feel embarrassed or fear losing their devices and freedom to access the internet. Recognising the signs is crucial, so you can help your child navigate such traumatic and harrowing incidents.
Here are some common signs of cyberbullying:
- Irritability and anxiety while or after using digital platforms
- Highly secretive about their devices and social media usage
- Withdrawing from family, friends, and hobbies
- Spending more time alone
- Avoiding school events and community gatherings
- Sudden outbursts of anger and irritability
- Deteriorating academic performance and poor grades
- Sudden withdrawal from their devices or social media
- Avoiding discussions related to their social media and phone usage
- Nervousness and anxiety upon getting notifications or texts
This list is by no means exhaustive, as each case of cyberbullying is uniquely complex in nature and circumstances. Parents need to maintain vigilance and keenly observe their children to notice unusual behavioural changes.
Maintaining Healthy Communication
Educated and cultured parents avoid violating the privacy of their children, especially in the case of teenagers. However, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your child’s social media interactions and internet usage. Maintaining healthy communication and creating a bond of trust goes a long way in earning their confidence.
Do your children regard you as trusted adults they can comfortably share their problems with without the fear of getting reproached? Earning your child’s trust is essential, so they can come up to you and open up about their struggles.
Monitoring Internet Activity
Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying has incriminating evidence in texts, social media posts, and harassing emails. However, to find this evidence, you must closely monitor your child’s internet activity. It may seem like you’re violating their privacy, but you cannot allow your child unmonitored internet usage.
All kinds of predators, bullies, and harassers lurk on the internet. They are more likely to prey upon children and teenagers as compared to grown adults. Instead of restricting your child’s internet usage, parents must monitor their activity. Consider downloading phone monitoring apps that allow you to examine their online interactions and experiences.
Many apps allow parents to monitor all social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. Some even allow you to view their text messages, call details, and other digital behaviours. These apps will ensure you’re aware of everything they’re doing online and everyone they come in contact with online.
Be Supportive & Understanding
Overreacting and underreacting are both terrible mistakes when it comes to dealing with and preventing cyberbullying. It’s essential to take a supportive approach and try to understand their struggles and trauma.
You can prevent instances of cyberbullying by raising awareness, playing the celebrity card. Discuss examples of celebrities who have become victims of cyberbullying and laud their responses and legal recourses. Assure your children of your support if they ever feel harassed, bullied, or threatened online. If they have fallen prey to cyberbullying incidents, build their confidence and resolve to fight with your support.
Parents can help their children navigate the digital realm safely and avoid cyberbullying incidents. However, if they are victimised by bullies online, you must help them cope and find ways to overcome the trauma. Don’t overreact, and never blame your children or take away their devices. Instead, investigate the issue, and work with your child to come up with a solution.