If your child was being pushed around, or was being called names by other kids at school, you’d step in to try to fix the problem wouldn’t you? You might not realize, that, with the huge rise in social networking and text messaging, your child might be being bullied through cyberspace. According to Mother’s Awareness on School-Age Kids , 42 percent of children have been bullied online. Don’t be quick to write this type of bullying off as less serious though, even if it doesn’t occur in person, persistent cyberbullying can lead to major emotional problems, and has, sadly, even resulted in several suicides.
What is Cyberbullying?
Just like the traditional bullying tactics, the cyber variety can range from name calling, often on Facebook, to circulating untrue, and devastating rumors through mass-mailed text messages. Sometimes, children set up a fake social networking site in a targeted child’s name, and post doctored pictures, nasty updates, and humiliating subject lines. These things can be seen by anyone who friends that person, but, the child targeted may not even know about it. Whatever form it takes, certain signs that your child is being bullied on cyberspace can help you find a solution to the problem, and get the proper authorities involved, if needed.
It might surprise you to find out that many cyberbullies are girls. They may zero-in on a target because that person hurt their feelings, got a better grade on a test, or started dating someone they had a crush on. So, it follows that a larger percentage of girls are the targets of cyberbullies. In many cases, the child doing the bullying finds it funny and doesn’t see the problem with it. However, it can severely degrade the target’s self-esteem and sense of safety at school and online, and unfortunately can have tragic consequences. It is just as important to address the problem if you feel that your child is cyberbullying another child.
Signs to Look For
You may notice gradual changes in your child’s behavior if they are being cyberbullied , or you might notice a drastic change over just a few days. Your child might become obsessed with checking their Facebook page, their email, or their text messages. They are likely monitoring what is being said about them,or looking for new messages coming from the bully. They might have nightmares, and you’ll probably notice behavior changes at home and school. This might be a loss of, or sudden increase in, appetite, slipping grades, defiant behavior, depression, or withdrawal from social events. If you notice any of these signs, have a talk with your child and help them come up with a plan to stop the bullying. This might require getting a doctor, a psychologist, the school staff, and other parents involved.
What if My Child is the Bully
Watch for secretive online behavior; if your child shuts their laptop or slides their cell phone in their pocket when you enter the room, you can probably assume they are doing something they shouldn’t be. Randomly check their email, website history and text messages, and look for anything that indicates cyberbullying. You might have to wait until your child is showering, sleeping or out of the house to prevent resistance. If another parent or teacher alerts you to bullying behavior, your child might also be bullying other kids online.
There are many websites devoted to finding the causes, researching the effects, and talking about the costs of cyberbullying on a child’s development, one of the most important steps a parent can take is to stop it before it starts .