Cyberbullying comes in many forms and can affect its victims many ways. It’s smart to watch for common warning signs that your child is a victim of cyberbullying, as well as bullying in general.
A huge warning sign that your child may be the victim of cyberbullying or bullying is if they become withdrawn or seem depressed and sad. Are they losing interest in people or activities they used to enjoy? Are they sleeping in when they usually don’t?
Avoidance of social situations
Does your child or teen seem to be avoiding social situations or friends whom they enjoyed spending time with in the past? Are they spending an inordinate amount of time alone? This could be a signal that something greater, such as cyberbullying, is going on.
Changed frequency of device use
Have you noticed that your child suddenly is “always” on social media or Snapchat, or texting on their cell phones? Has their deminer changed or have they shut down? Generally, moms will have a “gut feeling something is wrong”. This could signal they are the target of cyberbullying — or are doing the bullying. A marked decrease in device use could also be a warning sign. Paying attention to any changes in your child’s online behavior could help you detect trouble.
Does your child hide their devices whenever you’re around or dodge questions about their online activity? They could be hiding the possibility that they are being bullied online or they are participating in bullying. This is an important opportunity for you to intervene, help them sort out their emotions, and put a stop to the harmful behavior.
Another warning sign of cyberbullying is if your child seems to get upset or angry when they’re online. Crying is a warning sign. While laughing isn’t a bad thing, it might be if they’re the ones doing or witnessing the cyberbullying.
Suspicious social media account activity
Has your child suddenly cancelled their social media accounts? Or do they seem to have multiple accounts? These could be warning signs that something isn’t right.
Have you seen images of your child on their cell phone or others’ social media accounts that are demeaning and inappropriate? Or have you found images of someone else on one of your child’s devices that you know the other person wouldn’t want shared? These are warning signs that either your child is the target or source of cyberbullying.
Are there mean comments harassing or embarrassing your child on their social media accounts or in their text messages? Keeping up with their online activity is important, especially so you can spot cyberbullying behavior — such as hurtful comments — before they are deleted. Even if deleted, those comments may inflict emotional damage on your child.
How to protect your child from cyberbullying
One of the first things parents should do when their child is being cyberbullied is remember to stay aware and calm. Kids keep things from parents out of fear of their reactions to what they disclose. Kids generally are not equipped to deal with bullying alone. They are embarrassed, fearful, angry and confused when this happens. They fear losing their internet or social media privileges.
Talk to your kids about cyberbullying. Let them know cyberbullying can be common — that they aren’t the only victims. Teach your kids the basics of online security and stay connected with them daily and digitally.
Another option to keep children safe online is to install reliable online security on all of the devices they access. For instance, Norton Family Premier lets your kids explore the web freely while keeping you in the know about which sites they visit. It comes with parental controls that block unsuitable content for kids and provides insight into your child’s social media activity when they log in to social media sites from their PC.
The security software also helps protect your child from accidentally giving out sensitive personal information from their computer. This includes phone numbers, address, email, and the school they attend. It also alerts you when your child attempts to visit a blocked site.
Cyberbullying is a problem that’s not easy to solve. But awareness and knowledge are the first steps to help keep your children safe online.
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CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.