With the proliferation of social media and mobile devices, we've seen its positive impact – the ability for people to connect, to share information, and to develop an awareness of issues and ideas outside of their normal world of experience. But social media and mobile devices also present serious and destructive challenges for kids of all ages, one of which is cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is not so different from regular bullying – but it's done through digital devices like mobile phones, tablets, and computers. Kids that are cyberbullied are targeted via email, instant message, text, or online on social media platforms or web sites.
Kids that are cyberbullied often find themselves receiving hurtful messages, the subjects of false rumors or online posts, or find their private information and stories shared only to cause embarrassment or humiliation.
According to dosomething.org, more than 40% of kids have been bullied online. Of that 40 %, 25% have been targeted more than once.
If you suspect your child has been a victim of cyberbullying, what can you do?
First, look for some of the following signs:
Is there a change in your child’s social media habits? Is your child exhibiting sudden mood changes, altered sleeping patterns, anxiety, or stress when using electronic devices, or hiding his or her screen when others are around?
If you notice some of these behaviors, it is possible that your child may be a victim of cyberbullying.
Unfortunately, only one in ten children will actively report cyberbullying to a parent. So, it’s important for parents to ask questions about any concerns they may have and provide a safe and judgement-free environment for their children to open up about what’s happening in their lives. Open and honest communication, on an ongoing basis, is critical.
Before taking any immediate action, it's really important for parents to listen to their child, get all the facts and understand the exact nature of the cyberbullying. While it's important to take your child's version of the events seriously, it can help to hear all sides to truly understand the root of the issue.
Allow your child to show you and describe what’s been happening, how it makes them feel, and which other kids are a part of the cyberbullying. It’s important for your child to be vocal about the situation and for you, as a parent, to understand how it is affecting your child.
In light of everything that is going on in society, it is understandably one of a parent’s worst fears that their children might be victims of cyberbullying. Because of the negative impact cyberbullying has on kids, it is important for parents to stay calm and discuss ways to begin to resolve the problem. It’s equally important for kids to be part of the solution so that they learn how to deal with the situation, regain a sense of self-respect and control, and feel empowered to stand up for themselves.
Too many young people have been bullied at some point in their lives, and if left unaddressed, it can lead to serious emotional scars that have long-lasting effects way into adolescence and adulthood.
For the health and well-being of all children, it’s important to recognize acts of bullying and address it sensitively and directly so that kids understand its destructive impact. All of us: kids, parents, teachers, and other adults, can help put an end to it.