Boy using smart phone. How to deal with cyberbullying
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As more children are online than ever before, knowing about cyberbullying and how to help your child deal with it is an important aspect of modern-day parenting. This article will outline what you need to know about and how to help your child deal with cyberbullying.

Our world has changed a lot in recent years. We are more connected to and with technology than at any other time in our history.

The same can be said for the present generation of children who are more connected to technology than any other generation in history. COVID-19 also fuelled the rapid increase of children on the internet when online learning became necessary during the pandemic.

With increased access to the internet and mobile phones, there are major advantages and disadvantages to our children’s development and interaction with technology.

A key disadvantage of children’s use of the internet is cyberbullying. Understanding how to deal with cyberbullying is an essential part of every parent’s toolbox.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying with aggressive actions by a person or a group that are designed to hurt, embarrass or cause harm to someone.

Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying is done through technology such as social media, text messages, email, gaming platforms, and other electronic media. Cyberbullying can take place alongside traditional bullying.

Statistics on Cyberbullying

According to recent data in the USA, in 2019, 95% of 3- to 18-year-old children had internet access at home. 

Globally, it is estimated that 1 in 3 children uses the internet, with the most popular device being the mobile phone.

Data from EU Kids Online research show that in 2011 children spent an average of 88 minutes per day on the internet. While recent data show that in 2018, 12-15-year-old children in the United Kingdom spent on average 20.5 hours per week on the internet.

As children spend more time online, cyberbullying becomes more likely. A 2020 survey in the USA showed that over 20% of children 9-12 years old have experienced cyberbullying in one way or another, either through witnessing it, being a victim or being a perpetrator.

Meanwhile, one in three young people from 30 countries reported that they have been a victim of cyberbullying.

Not surprisingly, social media is the main source of cyberbullying, with Instagram (42%) and Facebook (37%) being the most used media for cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is done across multiple social media sites among them are Snapchat, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Twitter.

What are the Signs of Cyberbullying?

Knowing about the signs of cyberbullying can help your child deal with cyberbullying. It is also important to know and recognise if your child is the one bullying other children online.

To ensure that you get a grip on the situation before it gets out of hand, look out for these warning signs of cyberbullying.

Signs My Child is Cyberbullied 

Photo: Margo Morrison

1. Stops using the internet and/or devices

2. Appears nervous and jumpy when using devices

3. Avoids going to school

4. Appears agitated after going online

5. Develops sleep problems, either oversleeping or not sleeping enough

6. Becomes withdrawn from family and friends

7. Develops an increased or decreased appetite

8. Seems depressed

9. Expresses suicidal thoughts or talks frequently about the meaningless of life

10. Loses interest in things that used to matter

11. Avoids discussions about their online activity

12. Avoids spending time with peers

Signs My Child is Bullying Others Online 

Photo: Margo Mor

1. Secretive about online activity

2. Uses devices at odd hours at night

3. Shows anger when not able to use or access devices

4. Avoids sharing content that seems overly amusing

5. Avoids discussions about online activity

6. Increased isolation from family

7. Has multiple social media accounts or uses fake accounts

8. Exhibiting increased behavioural issues at school

9. Appears not to have any concern or care about other teens

10. Displays violent tendencies

What Are the Effects of Cyberbullying?

The effects of cyberbullying can be devastating for your child. There have been multiple research on the negative effects of social media on children’s mental health, and cyberbullying is a contributing factor.

As mentioned above, social media is the prime medium for cyberbullying amongst its users. Children’s experiences online will differ based on who they interact with and their support systems. However, these are some common effects of cyberbullying on children.   

1. Social anxiety

2. Depression

3. Suicidal thoughts

4. Avoidance of social media

5. Self-harm

6. Avoidance of school

7. Eating disorders

8. Substance abuse

How to Deal with Cyberbullying

Having all of the information will help your child to navigate the internet safely and protect them as much as possible from cyberbullying.

Here are some tips to help your child deal with cyberbullying.

1. Establish trust with your child so that he feels comfortable discussing issues of cyberbullying with you.

2. Talk to your child about internet safety and how to protect themselves online.

3. Speak to your child honestly about cyberbullying so that if and when it occurs, they can recognise it and know what to do.

4. Assure your child that she will not lose her device and internet privileges.

5. Identify the bully and block them from your child’s contact.

6. Report incidents of cyberbullying to the school’s administrators.

7. Report the bully and the content to the social media platform that your child uses.

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