We’ve all come across bullies in different forms during our lifetime (or perhaps even been one ourselves). But there was no such thing as cyberbullying until about 10/12 years ago when people finally discovered they could display their meanness and cruelty to others through digital media.
As a parent, it’s difficult to know whether your child is a victim of cyberbullying. Teenagers refuse to talk about this as a matter for fear of their gadgets being taken from them or of being told to quit social media (and when social media is all they have to keep connected to other people that they love and care about, it's a really big ask!). Or they may simply feel ashamed and embarrassed.
It’s even more difficult for a parent to protect his/her child without really knowing what cyberbullying is. As the name implies, cyberbullying is an act of bullying through electronic devices like computers, smartphones and tablets. The most commonly used platforms are social media sites, messaging apps and text messages. What happens is, a cyberbully may send mean messages via text or post embarrassing photos or information about another person on Facebook.
According to BullyingStatistics.org, over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying. More than 1 in 3 young people have also experienced cyber threats online and it’s affecting them on a daily basis.
A research from the University of Missouri also found that bullying rates are even higher for children with disabilities.
What can parents do?
Naturally, any parent would want to shield their children from all the horrors of cyberbullying. If you think your child is a victim of cyberbullying, here are some of the things you can do to help:
- Have an open discussion about the topic
It’s best to start an open dialogue with your child and talk about cyberbullying. Help your teen understand what it is, its different forms and how it could affect him/her in the long run. You may be tempted to reprimand them and give them a lecture but this could only make things worse. Instead, be gentle and nurturing when talking to them. It is important that your child feels your support during this time. Let them know that they can talk to you if anything happens to them.
Cyberattacks can hurt your child emotionally and may have a lasting effect. One of the worst parts is that cyberbullying doesn't just end at school, it haunts your child back home, too. So it is best to turn your home into a safe place where they can be honest about how they feel and they know you will always be on their side...
- Always take their side.
When your child opens up to you about a cyberbullying incident, always take their side and let them feel that you support him/her 100%. If you feel like you need to point out the wrong in their actions, especially if they are the ones who do the bullying, be cautious in doing so. Approach the matter carefully and try to remain calm and understanding. Kids tend to avoid their parents when they’re in trouble because they’re afraid they might just make things worse like getting grounded or having their Internet privileges taken away, or even calling up the school and the other parents.
Victims of cyberbullying find themselves emotionally agitated, thus making it hard for them to reach out for help. Bymaking them feel that you are there supporting them all the way is very important.
- Be a great example.
Remember, all action is only imitation. If your child is the one doing the bullying, talk to them about the harm they are causing other people. Remind them to always treat others the way you want to be treated. Be a good digital citizen and teach them to be so. And if they know anyone who is being bullied, they should take action and report the incident to authorities. If they are afraid to do so, let them come to you. Find a solution together. This will teach them responsibility, taking action, and seeing things through.
It also helps to be knowledgeable about the subject of cyberbullying. In our blog section, we have a bunch of great resources! Also, why not join our Facebook Group? It's a closed group, meaning that only the people in the group will be able to see your posts and you can ask questions and get advice from your peers and the experts!