Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, but it also has opened up a new avenue for kids and cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place online or through digital devices. It is prevalent among kids and teens and can cause significant harm to their mental and emotional well-being.
Risks of Cyberbullying
Like traditional bullying, cyberbullying can have long-lasting effects on a child’s mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. It can also affect their academic performance, leading to a decline in grades and attendance. Children who are victims of cyberbullying may also experience feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence.
Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying can happen anytime and anywhere. It also can be done anonymously, so it’s difficult to identify the source of harmful messages or posts. It also can easily go viral, and harmful messages or posts can be spread quickly to others.
Signs Your Kid or Teen is Being Bullied Online
Children may also be hesitant to tell you or report cyberbullying for fear of being stigmatized or further victimized. It may not be obvious that your child is being cyberbullied. So, it’s important to be familiar with the signs so you can spot them. Here’s some changes to watch for:
Behavior Changes: One of the most common signs is a sudden change in behavior. If your child or teen becomes withdrawn, anxious, or agitated, it may be a sign that something is wrong. They may also become secretive, especially about their online activities, and may spend more time online than usual.
Poor Academics: Cyberbullying can affect a child’s ability to concentrate, leading to a drop in grades.
Health Problems: You may also notice physical changes from the stress of cyberbullying. Your child may complain of headaches, stomachaches, or have trouble sleeping.
Troubling Behavior with a Device: Watch for changes in how your teen or childinteracts with their devices. If they suddenly become hesitant to use their phone or computer or seem afraid or upset when receiving a message or notification, it may be a sign that they are being bullied online.
What to Do If Your Child is Being Cyberbullied
If you suspect or you discover your child is being cyberbullied, the first thing to do is be supportive and talk to your child about the experience. Listening and empathizing will help your child feel safe and supported and be able handle the situation in a healthy way.
Take a screenshot or document the online bullying. If your child is being cyberbullied by a classmate, you can report it to the school. If the cyberbullying involves physical threats, you can consider reporting it to the police.
Depending on the app or website, you can reduce opportunities for cyberbullying by blocking the offender or applying privacy and safety restrictions to your child’s account.
If you don’t have a media plan, create one with your child that includes safety rules and restrictions to help prevent cyber bullying in the future. When adding new restrictions, it’s important to not frame this as a punishment. Otherwise, they may not come to you for help in the future.
How to Prevent Cyberbullying
Parents have a responsibility to teach their children about safe use of technology, both to prevent them from being cyberbullied or from cyberbullying others.
The first step in prevention is to talk to your child about online bullying, why it’s wrong, and how it can hurt others. Encourage your child to talk to you or another trusted adult if they experience or witness cyberbullying.
Create a media plan with your child that includes safety rules and restrictions. For example, you can set limits on how much time your child spends online and what websites or apps they are allowed to access. You can also set rules for social media use, such as not sharing personal information and reporting any cyberbullying incidents.
Monitor your child or teen’s online activities. Check their social media accounts and messages regularly to ensure that they are not being cyberbullied or engaging in bullying behavior themselves.
Contact Pediatrics West
If your child is being cyberbullied, you can talk to your provider about resources for cyberbullying by contacting Pediatrics West at (720) 284-3700.