Cyberbullying is an invasive destructive form of harassment that can leave an lasting impact on children and teens. Reports show that 85 percent of teenagers use social media. Seventy (70) percent admitted to have been cyberbullied. This led many of them to develop things like social anxiety (41%), depression (37%), and suicidal thoughts (26%). 64 percent of teens also said this type of bullying affects their ability to learn and feel safe at school. This new danger is uncharted territory for many parents, as they didn’t grow up with the internet
The best thing you can do to prevent cyberbullying is to limit what personal information is available on the internet. This could be on their social media or your own. This gives bullies less information to use against them, while also protecting against things becoming more serious. In some cases, cyberbullying can lead to stalking both on and offline.
Basic internet precautions can also help keep your children safe. This includes limiting who your children can interact with on the internet. You can do this by setting their accounts to private, creating parental controls, or going through their contacts and making sure everyone is known and trusted. Cyberbullying often occurs on anonymous accounts or hate pages, so making sure unidentified people can’t interact with their accounts is imperative. Monitor the time spent online, and where it is spent. Most cyberbullying occurs on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
Identifying the symptoms of cyberbullying can help catch it before it goes too far. Watch for extreme and sudden behavior changes. This could include, but isn’t limited to: becoming shy, withdrawn, moody, agitated, anxious, stressed, or aggressive. They may also get into trouble at school, try to get out of going, or start skipping class. You know your child best, but try not to brush these symptoms off as them just being teenagers. It can be hard to admit these things are happening but you can help them by creating a safe, judgment free space they can feel comfortable in.
If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, it's important to act fast. Collect all messages and posts containing harmful words you can find. Depending on the severity, you can either take the evidence to the police or the school. Make sure to block and report the user and any other accounts they may make. It could even be beneficial to delete your child's social media accounts and make new ones. Most importantly, don’t lash out against the bully. It could give them more of an incentive to keep coming after you.
Cyberbullying will exist as long as the internet does.
Hopefully with these steps we can work to keep our loved ones safe, and minimize any damage from cyberbullying when it does occur.
Remember to be kind, and stay safe.