Cyberbullying

There have been many media stories in the last few years about cyberbullying. Make no mistake, the consequences are similar to other forms of bullying.

The only difference being the platform used. Texts; networking sites such as Facebook; Twitter, Ask.fm, email; blog comments and apps like Snapchat can all be spaces where bullying happens.

Youth Mental Health CyberbullyingIt can happen to anyone but generally happens as part of traditional form of bullying.

Cyberbullying behaviour includes:

  • abusive messages on networking sites or texts
  • offensive or antagonistic comments on posts
  • rumour spreading online
  • posting offensive images or videos
  • hacking into online accounts.

Effects of cyberbullying

Unfortunately, due the nature of the tools, bullying is longer limited to schoolyards or street corners and can invade a young person’s space at any time of the day, not matter where they are.

A more traditional form of bullying can now follow a person into their home life.

Cyberbullying very rarely happens without there being a case of bullying.

Bullying, and severe cyberbullying can leave young people at greater risk for anxiety and depression. In some rare but highly publicised cases, some young people have turned to suicide.

Signs of cyberbullying

Some things to look out for if you’re concerned your son or daughter might be experiencing cyberbullying:

  • Signs of emotional distress during or after using the internet or the phone
  • Being very protective or secretive of their digital life
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Avoidance of school or group gatherings
  • Changes in mood, behaviour, sleep or appetite.

How parents can help

There are things you can do if your son or daughter is experiencing bullying.

Here are some additional tips specific to cyberbullying:

Assertiveness

Encourage your son or daughter to be assertive. The old “turn the other cheek” approach doesn’t really work.

They need to be able to try to stop the behaviour or make it clear that it is unacceptable if they themselves are experiencing bullying, but also if they witness it happening to someone else.

Know your son/daughter’s online world

Be aware of how young people spend their time online. Talk to them about the importance of privacy and why it’s a bad idea to share personal information online.

Encourage them to safeguard passwords. Make sure they are away of privacy controls on the social networks they use.

Learn more about the popular apps and networking sites young people are using and how they’re used, to fully understand the environment they’re living in everyday.

Limit access to technology

Although it’s hurtful, many young people who are being bullied can’t resist the temptation to check if they have new messages.

Keep the computer in a public place in the house (no laptops in bedrooms) and limit the use of mobile phones and games. Write up mobile phone and social media use contracts that you are willing to enforce.

Involve your son or daughter with what these contracts are. The older they get the harder it will be, so if they’re involved in the process of making the rules, it will be easier to enforce them.

Encourage them not to respond or retaliate to any bullying.

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