How to Help Kids Cope with Cyberbullying
The sad reality of life is that many kids, in the course of growing up, will get bullied at some point or the other. Bullying can manifest in many different forms, but the basic principle is to coerce or intimidate someone. It usually happens to kids that might come across as vulnerable, although this is not an absolute rule. Bullying can have a range of physical, but more importantly, long-term mental and emotional effects, leading to many personality issues. With the advent of technology and how our lives are now consumed by social media, bullying has made its way online in a phenomenon called cyberbullying. It is as bad as bullying, if not worse, and can take a toll on your child’s mental health. Around the world, there have been numerous cases where kids have succumbed to suicide due to cyberbullying, and that is absolutely unacceptable. Read on to understand this subject more, and to find out ways on how to stop cyberbullying for kids.
What Is Cyberbullying?
As mentioned, technology has taken over the way we consume media nowadays. Any information that you need is available at the tips of your fingers, so to speak. Cyberbullying is the usage of digital media and communication tools to make another person sad, angry, anxious, or scared, over and over again. This bullying can manifest in the form of hurtful or threatening text messages, embarrassing photos on social media, disclosing their personal information, etc. Even though it is noticed amongst adults, cyberbullying is a common phenomenon amongst teenagers as well, and it is imperative to keep track of their online activity to avoid any such incidents.
Why Do Kids Cyberbully?
Cyberbullying, much like traditional bullying, has various reasons and ways of existing. In order to understand the concept better, one must understand why kids are doing it in the first place. Here are some reasons why kids might indulge in cyberbullying:
As the number of kids being cyber-bullied increases across the world, the reason for some tormentors to bully others online is driven by the need for revenge. It could be some sort of retaliation for an injustice they have experienced. By cyberbullying others, they get a feeling of vindication for what they went through.
If time isn’t managed correctly, boredom can manifest itself in the form of bullying. Just to add some drama and excitement to their lives, kids will resort to cyberbullying. It also happens when there is a lack of supervision and attention from the parents.
Some cyberbullies end up bullying others who might be perceived as socially popular. In order to “bring them down a notch”, an individual or a group might indulge in cyberbullying.
4. Herd Mentality
Many kids think that cyberbullying is something that everybody is doing, and engage in it themselves. They might indulge in it to fit in with a group of kids who are doing it.
5. Lack of Accountability
Cyberbullies often think that behind the anonymity of their keyboard and screen, nobody will be able to catch them doing it. This false sense of security gives them more courage to indulge in it often.
6. Lack of Empathy
Cyberbullies lack empathy, which is a trait that is lauded by society as a whole. Not caring for your peers and how they feel is a wrong characteristic to hone, and can lead to no feelings of remorse for actions.
A lot of cyberbullies are also chasing after the feeling of being powerful by putting someone else down. Kids who are popular or attractive might make others feel differently and make fun of them.
How Does Cyberbullying Affect Kids?
The consequences of cyberbullying have an extensive range. Kids respond differently to different situations, and the intensity of the bullying can also vary. Here are some ways in which cyberbullying can have an adverse impact on your child:
1. Feeling Unsafe and Powerless
Since most cyberbullies are anonymous, it can be tough to point out the person or group bullying the victim, although it might someone the victim knows. The fear of the unknown causes kids to feel unsafe and powerless, since bullying follows them back home through social media and the Internet.
2. Feeling Overwhelmed
The constant feeling of anxiety while doing anything in school or at home can be a lot for kids to handle. This multiplies when the number of bullies increases as well.
3. Feeling Humiliated
The problem with the Internet is that once things are posted online, they exist in cyberspace forever. Kids, being so tech-savvy, are aware of that. Having embarrassing photos or videos online can make kids feel humiliated.
4. Lack of Self-Worth
Cyberbullies often target kids for their appearances. A child might be a target for being too fat or too thin, too tall or too short, etc. Cyberbullies will pick on anything, and this can lead to a serious issue with self-worth.
5. Feeling Isolated and Ostracized
Getting bullied might also lead to being excluded from activities and sports at school, which is unfortunate, as it leads to kids feeling isolated and alone. We all know that teenagers can be mean, but nobody should be made to feel this way.
More serious effects of cyberbullying include depression. Kids who get bullied often exhibit physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, etc. The constant anxiety and stress can spiral into a difficult world of depression.
7. Suicidal Thoughts
Cyberbullying increases the risk of suicide. Kids who are constantly tormented with no recourse reach a saturation point where they just can’t deal with it any longer. Suicide sometimes feels like the only escape from it all.
Signs Your Child Is Being Cyberbullied
To prevent cyberbullying, parents need to be on top of all their kids’ online activities, and be involved in their lives. Children are delicate creatures, and guidance from parents helps them form strong characters. Here are some signs to look out for, if you think your child is being cyberbullied:
- Seems to be nervous while answering messages or e-mails
- Random stomach aches and headaches
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Inexplicable anger or depression
- Seems unwilling to go to school
- Seems stressed and anxious
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
When Must Parents Get Involved in a Cyberbullying Situation?
Kids may not tell their parents that they are getting bullied, because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. They might also feel that the parents getting involved could make things worse. In case you find out that your child has been or is being cyberbullied, it is time to get involved. A good approach is to talk to the child about the best course of action, depending on what kind of outcome the child would like. Encouraging children to get their friends and peers to rally for them is a good way to thwart a bully, because a bully’s modus operandi includes isolating the victim. However, if there is a real threat to a child’s safety, the concerned authorities must be immediately contacted.
What Should Parents Do if Their Child Is Being Cyberbullied?
Here are some steps that parents can follow in case their child is being cyberbullied:
1. Control your emotions
It is normal to feel angry, embarrassed, and guilty, but parents must understand that the issue is about the child, and not them. Parents must not let their emotions get the better of them.
2. Sit down and talk
There could be a possibility that the parent is the last one to find out about the cyberbullying, other than the related authorities, but they must remember that the child needs them now more than ever. Sitting down in a calm and peaceful environment will definitely help the child feel safe enough to share the misfortune.
3. Learn why they did it
Try to empathize with the bully, and understand why they might have done such a thing.
4. Handle the situation carefully
It is a very delicate time, and while deciding the approach, parents must consider and be aware of all details about it.
How Can Parents Report Cyberbullying?
Here are some ways in which parents can report cyberbullies:
- Report it to the online service provider. This includes reporting the terms of abuse on social media websites.
- If the matter is a lot more serious, don’t be afraid to involve the authorities. When there are activities such as threats of violence, sharing of child pornography, stalking, uploading compromising photos or videos, etc., the police must be immediately notified.
- Parents can choose to report the matter to the school as well. At the end of the day, the school is responsible for your child’s wellbeing, and if they are not taking appropriate action, then it is a problem.
There are various ways in which cyberbullying can be prevented. Some of them are:
A good way to prevent cyberbullying is by researching it and understanding how it exactly works. Be one step ahead of the bully by learning the warning behaviors to be better equipped to deal with them.
2. Privacy Settings
Make sure to always make your posts on social media private, or for friends that you know personally. Bullies can and will tend to pick on public accounts, and it’s a bigger issue when location settings are not switched off.
Ensure that you do not have any compromising photos that might cause you grief if they were to be leaked online. Cyberbullies will tend to circulate sexual content to make you look bad, and it is avoidable by being very careful with your media.
4. Logging Out of Social Media
On public computers like libraries or other places, make sure to log out of your social media accounts, lest a bully gets their hands on it and wreaks havoc.
We can all agree that bullying of any kind, be it physical or mental, or both, is absolutely unacceptable. Teaching kids about cyberbullying is a good way to keep them ready, and also help understand that it is not okay to bully someone else. Getting rid of bullies and bullying might be a few years away, but for now, we hope our article has come in handy for you to deal with cyberbullying, with steps to make sure that you are not too affected by it. All the best, and be safe!