Cyberbullying has been on the rise with the increased use of smartphones and mobile devices among teenagers and young adults. According to a study by the Pew research center, one out of three teenagers who use the internet has experienced at least one form of cyberbullying.
It’s unsettling that these young ones derive pleasure from mistreating their peers. But when do expect when underage children are given unrestricted access to the internet? It is expected that they will get into all kinds of trouble. For most of them, cyberbullying is their sick idea of fun and they do not understand the negative effect it has on their victims.
Cyberbullying is not restricted to nudity and pornography. It can occur in different forms which include posting, sending or sharing negative, false, sensitive and harmful information about someone without their consent. If you’re sharing personal or private information about someone that could cause them humiliation and embarrassment, then you are a cyberbully. There is no better way to say it.
You know the worse part. Information shared on the internet cannot be permanently erased as the internet never forgets. Some cyberbullying, if not properly handled could escalate into criminal and deadly acts. Therefore, you must take pragmatic steps to deal with it when you get the first complaint from your child.
Where Does Cyberbullying Occur?
Cyber-bullying occurs on different virtual platforms powered by the internet.
- Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat
- Messaging apps on mobile phones
- Instant messaging, text messaging, direct messaging and online chatting mediums over the internet
- Online chat rooms, groups, forums, message boards like Reddit and emails
- Online gaming communities
Signs of Cyberbullying
Parents are often at work or busy with chores that they don’t see their child being bullied over the internet. If you don’t have open conversations with your children, they may not tell you until it’s too late. Don’t depend on their school to handle it. Trust me, teachers are too busy grading result sheets to notice a child being bullied in their class. Thus, it is your responsibility to protect your child. Be on the lookout to spot if your children are being bullied by their peers.
Here are some common signs that your child is being harassed over the internet.
1. Sudden Physical Changes
The first thing to look out for is signs of sudden physical changes. Victims of cyberbullying often become depressed due to the damage to their social life. They begin to withdraw, skip meals and have difficulty sleeping at night. The child begins to lose weight and look worn out. If your child begins to shrink from the happy-go-lucky kid you used to know, then it’s time to start asking questions.
2. School Avoidance
When a child experiences cyberbullying, they become scared of going to school because their mates will make fun of them. Sometimes, the bully may begin to harass them at school. So, the child withdraws from extracurricular activities, he skips classes and his grades begin to drop. If a child who has always been enthusiastic about going to school begins to lose interest in school, there may be more to it than he is telling you.
3. Mood Swings
Cyberbullying can be associated with frequent or sudden mood swings. Is your child often sad, nervous or jumpy? Does he snap at the slightest provocation? Maybe something is eating him up inside. It’s up to you to find that out. If this behaviour lingers for too long, then it may not be the hormonal changes common with adolescents and moody teenagers.
4. Loss of Interest
Bullying affects a child’s social life which makes them withdraw from friends, family and schoolmates. They push everybody away and recoil into their shelves. The child begins to lose interest in his or her favourite sports, games and hobbies. He avoids all kinds of social gathering and no longer wants to go for sleepovers, prom night or school parties.
5. Quitting Social Media
We all know how teenagers love to use mobile gadgets. They could stay up all night texting on their phones or playing video games. They would sneak it off to school and get grumpy when you insist that they are too young to be using phones. When that child suddenly becomes nervous about using his phones, tablets or laptop especially when you’re around, then there’s something going on. The child becomes overly secretive and upset after using going online.
Victims of cyberbullying are often psychologically affected. They are traumatized and have difficulty sleeping at night. And when they do get to sleep, their dreams are filled with nightmares. They become afraid of the dark and begin to hallucinate about someone trying to harm them in their sleep. Don’t be quick to dismiss it as the usual childish tantrums. That child needs immediate help and therapy.
7. Suicidal Thoughts
This is a big red flag which could result in self-harm. If your child begins to make passing statements about death and suicide attempt, it gives serious cause for concern. Don’t dismiss it as a mere joke because your child may be experiencing cyberbullying or other forms of abuse, and needs immediate professional help.
Cyberbullying is an unpleasant experience that occurs more often than you think. It is a serious issue and must be treated as such. A child who experiences cyberbullying may have to live with the trauma for the rest of his life. Parents and guardians should establish family rules to protect their children from the crazy world of the internet. Install parental control in your children’s devices and ensure that you have the passwords to all their gadgets and online platforms.
In addition to that, restrict the use of their phones especially at odd hours. Don’t let them use it late at night or in hidden corners of the house. Also, develop a cordial relationship with your child. Be their best friend so they can feel free to talk to you about these things. Every child deserves a chance to live a normal life.
You can also protect your child by using The KeepMeSafe Family Locator Tracker. It is an app that helps you keep tabs of your loved ones wherever they are to ensure that they are safe. It has a GPS tracker, video & audio recording, SOS signals and chats!