The growth of the internet and social media has transformed how people learn information and communicate with one another. In many cases, this real-time accessibility is beneficial, connecting friends and family across the world. But unfortunately, digital platforms also allow people to harass others — often anonymously — and engage in cyberbullying.
For young people, cyberbullying can have severe impacts on their mental health and self-esteem. As a parent, it’s crucial to understand how cyberbullying occurs and learn how to prevent it from happening to your child or teenager.
Keep reading for an overview of cyberbullying, including signs that it may be happening to your son or daughter and tips for putting an end to it.
What is cyberbullying?
Just like regular bullying, cyberbullying is when a person (or group of people) intentionally harass others online on a continual basis. It can occur via social media, messaging apps, or any other online medium. Cyberbullying may be targeted directly at an individual, or the attacks can be posted in a public or private online forum to embarrass someone in front of others.
Cyberbullying can happen to people of any age, but it’s a particular issue among children and teenagers. It can have serious, long-term effects, including anxiety, anger, sadness, concentration issues, and even suicidal thoughts.
Signs and symptoms of cyberbullying
If you have kids, you’ll do anything you can to protect them from harm. With cyberbullying so prevalent these days, it’s important to be aware of the signs that your child may be experiencing it, so you can offer support and put it to an end.
If your daughter or son is being cyberbullied, they might exhibit the following behaviours:
Becoming increasingly angry, sad, or withdrawn (especially after using phone, tablet, or computer)
- Losing interest in school or after-school activities
- Worsening physical or mental health
- Changing friends or friend groups unexpectedly
In many situations, children are reluctant to tell their parents that they’re being cyberbullied. They might be embarrassed or worried that their internet access will be restricted. That’s why it’s imperative for parents to understand these signs and act if something seems off.
What to do if you believe your child is being bullied online
It can be quite distressing to think that your little one is being targeted by bullies. If you think that your child is being harassed online, you should speak with them in a supportive and non-confrontational manner. Reassure them that they’re safe to talk about the situation with you and ask them to tell you more about what’s going on.
As you listen, be sure to remind your child that you’re on their side and try not to react with anger or panic. Depending on the situation, you might choose to take screenshots of the harassment so you can report it to authorities. And of course, if your child is in danger, contact the police or emergency services as soon as possible.
How WAYS can help
At WAYS Youth & Family, we provide pathways to success for young people and their families. From Monday 24th May, WAYS is hosting a parenting seminar that focuses on how to talk to your teen about difficult issues. This course will assist parents to build stronger parent-child relationships and better manage and understand their adolescent’s behaviour.
Visit our website to learn more or sign up for the event.