Almost every parent has had their own personal experience with bullying in some form or another, so it’s especially heart-breaking when you hear your child is being bullied. But cyberbullying is another type of beast that we never had to deal with as kids.
Cyberbullying works much in the same way as in-person bullying, but there’s one notable difference. With cyberbullying, there’s almost no escape. A cyberbully can reach your child anywhere they have an internet connection. In this technology-centric world, it’s virtually impossible to ignore or walk away from cyberbullying.
Fortunately, you aren’t completely powerless. There are a few ways you can help if your child is being cyberbullied. It all starts with identifying the problem.
Here are some warning signs that your child is being cyberbullied:
- Social withdrawal
If your previously social child suddenly begins to withdraw from friends and family, it’s a sign that something is wrong. It may be bullying or cyberbullying, but it’s definitely something that should be addressed. Talk to your child about what’s going on. Ask about friendships and how things are going at school. Teenagers aren’t always forthcoming with information, but some conversation is better than none at all.
If your child begins closing himself in his room all day, there may be a problem. This is especially concerning if this is new and drastic behaviour. Again, try to start a conversation about your child’s behaviour. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help her feel more involved with the family.
- Disconnecting from technology
As a parent of a teenager, you’ve probably wished for your child to stop spending so much time on their phone. Now that it has happened, you’re extremely concerned – and for good reason. When teens suddenly stop picking up their phones, it could be a sign that they don’t feel safe online. Let them know that you think it’s a good thing to spend time offline, but you’re worried about whether they’re feeling safe online.
- Cancelling social media accounts
If you notice that your kid suddenly deactivated one or more social media accounts, this could be a sign of cyberbullying. Cancelling accounts could be your child’s way of trying to stop the cyberbully, but this often doesn’t work. Most kids who are cyberbullied know their bully in real life too, so the bullying will continue regardless of whether they can see what’s being written online or not.
- Hiding online activity
If your child is super secretive about what they’re doing online, a few things could be happening. Either they are getting into something they know they shouldn’t, they’re cyberbullying someone else, or they are the victim of cyberbullying. None of these scenarios are ideal, so it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
- Appears uneasy while on the phone
You can usually tell when someone is reading something that bothers them, even when they try their best to hide it. If your child gets a text or opens Snapchat or Instagram and her mood instantly changes, cyberbullying could be at the root. Ask her what’s going on. The chances that it’s cyberbullying increase if your child won’t talk about it and/or if it becomes a pattern.
- Unexplained anger and aggression
When kids are being bullied, it’s difficult for them to find an outlet. They feel like they can’t talk to their parents and the kids at school are often the problem. They can feel very isolated and angry, and this can come out as aggression towards family. If your child is suddenly having angry outbursts, try talking to him or her instead of jumping straight to discipline. They may be hurting more than you realize.
If you strongly suspect that your child is being cyberbullied, find out what’s going on online. Start by talking to your child. If he or she doesn’t open up, it’s time to do some digging. The first step is to find indisputable proof. If you can get screenshots, you can probably get the person who is bullying banned from social sites.
Next, talk to your child’s teachers. If the bully goes to the same school, they will need to look for and address any bullying that may be going on at school. Throughout it all, let your teen know that you’re in their corner. It’s never easy, but you can get through this together.