We all know someone who has been bullied, or even been bullied as a child ourselves and we need to stop cyberbullying now for the sake of our children as there are too many articles and reports of the damage this kind of relentless bullying is doing to children. As a parent we all want to protective our children from anything that upsets or harms them and bullying remains a great fear for many parents. Bullying now isn’t just confined to school hours, term times or in playgrounds. Children today are faced with a newer kind of bullying… Cyberbullying. It can seem relentless, 24 hours a day, 7 days a weeks, even happening within the safety of their own home.
What is cyberbullying?
To be able to stop cyber bullying you first have to know what exactly it is. Cyberbullying is a type of bullying which takes place online, it can happen through any device that connects online i.e. a computer, tablet, smart phone. Cyberbullying is now extremely common on the internet and you’re most at risk of experiencing it if you are using social media. Unfortunately with social networking sites and messaging apps any nasty rumours, gossip or humiliating photos or videos can be seen shared at the click of a button, be seen by many very quickly and even go viral!
Unfortunately cyberbullying is an ever increasing problem. Over the last 3 years Childline has received an 87% increase in calls relating to online cyber bullying. In the UK alone it is estimated that 5.43 million children will have at some point experienced cyberbullying. 1.26 million children will have experienced on a daily basis extreme cyberbullying.
At some point a young person will have either experienced cyber bullying themselves or witnessed it happening to someone else. Worryingly 40% of 7-11 year olds will know someone who has been a victim of cyber bullying. Just as concerning are the figures for older children / young adults, 7 in 10 young people aged between 13 and 22 will be cyber bullied.
Types of Cyberbullying
Just like old school bullying there are various types of ways someone can be bullied online… lets take a look at why we need to stop cyber bullying in all its forms…
Targeting a person and intentionally leaving them out, for example out of group chats, games and other group activities.
Cyber “dissing”. Sending, posting or publishing cruel rumours, gossip or untrue statements to purposely damage friendships and reputations e.g sharing a photo to ridicule someone.
Repeatedly sending hurtful, threatening and abusive messages.
Taking part in online fights using offensive and abusive language.
Posting online about someone that may include sensitive, private or embarrassing information.
Continually sending threatening or intimidating messages, making a person feel harassed and concerned for their safety.
Hacking into an account or making a fake profile on social media pretending to be someone else, then posting online to damage their reputation.
The Effects of Cyberbullying
Like any form of bullying the effects of cyberbullying can take their toll, emotionally, psychologically and physically. Cyberbullying can cause fear, anxiety, emotional distress, stress, lower self-esteem, changes in sleeping and eating habits to name but a few. It can also lead to truancy or an avoidance of school, either to avoid the bully or because the victim feels embarrassed. In addition to other factors and in rare cases cyber bullying has been sadly linked to several suicide cases which is all the more reason we should work hard to stop cyberbullying from occurring for any child.
Cyberbullies can feel like they are invading your private space, your home where you should always feel safe and secure. As a result a victim may feel unsafe and vulnerable and the bullying may feel like it’s everywhere and become very overwhelming.
Signs of Cyberbullying
Children can be good at hiding the fact they are being bullied but there are a few telltale signs to lookout for:
- Your child is upset or agitated after using the internet on their mobile or tablet or after texting.
- They become secretive about their online use and unwilling to talk about what they are doing.
- Suddenly spend a lot less time gaming or on social media for no apparent reason (avoiding).
- Reluctant to go to school or meet friends or participate in group activities.
- Starts skipping school or certain lessons.
- Low self esteem and general feelings of sadness.
- Becoming withdrawn and not talking to anyone even you. Avoiding social interactions they used to enjoy.
- They have difficulty sleeping.
Is My Child the bully?
Obviously we all like to think that our child would not be the bully but there are also signs that your child could be the one doing the cyber bullying or taking part in bullying.
- Stops using the computer when others are about or quickly closes windows or turns the screen off when others come near.
- Is nervous when using the computer or internet like they are doing something they know is wrong.
- Is secretive about what they do online.
- Spends excessive amounts of time on their mobile or computer.
- Gets angry when mobile or computer privileges are taken away.
- They seem to have multiple online accounts.
What can I do to help stop cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is something a lot of parents will have no experience of so knowing how to properly approach cyberbullying or stop cyberbullying when it has already started is difficult. It’s better to try to stop cyberbullying in its tracks early on if possible by been open and honest with your child about it and its consequences and reassuring them that no matter what they can talk to you. We’ve compiled a few tips for parents to use to try to stop cyberbullying and also some tips on what to do if your child is unfortunate enough to experience it.
- If you think that bullying may be happening online to your child keep the computer in a family space, somewhere it’s visible and that you can keep an eye on your child’s online usage. Agree time limits with your child and talk to them about the sites they can visit and what they can do online.
- Familiarise yourself with the popular social networking sites out there. Be aware of how they work. Ask your child to share their profile with you.
- Build trust with you child. Encourage them to be open and honest with you. Talk about and discuss together rules with regards to online safety and internet use.
- Chat with your child about online issues. Reassure them that they can and must always seek help from you or another trusted adult if they encounter material that is upsetting, inappropriate or dangerous whilst online.
- Talk to your children about cyber bullying. Emphasise that they must not respond to comments or threats and that they must not delete messages but save and print them as evidence of cyber bullying.
- Be supportive and understanding. Listen. Let your child know they aren’t to blame. Find out how long the bullying has been going on and reassure them that you will work together to find a solution. Do not shrug it off as part of growing up.
- Don’t threaten to take away computers or other devices as this will only make them feel more isolated and punished and encourage secrecy in the future.
- Tell your child not to reply to online threats and messages sent by bullies.
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