The broad definition of cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature to someone. Kids are often embarrassed at being a victim of this kind of damaging behaviour, so parents may not even be aware that their child is being targeted.
How will you recognise the signs?
TastyMoments have done the homework for you. Here are a few telltale indicators your child may be bullied online:
Changes in your child's emotional responses
If your teen starts acting out after they have been online, this could be a sign that they are stressed out by what they’ve seen or read. If s/he suddenly dislikes going to school or stops hanging out with their usual group, this could be an indication that they are the target of unkind or unpleasant messaging. We recommend having a gentle but frank chat over an oven-baked pizza or a slice of Patisserie Cheesecake to understand why they’re be acting out. This way you can easily discern whether it’s related to bullying or something less serious.
Unusual Online Behaviour
If they start to either spend much more time online or avoid the internet altogether, this might be a sign that they are troubled by something that is happening online. If your child shuts the computer screen or abruptly changes what they’ve been looking at every time a parent steps into the room, it definitely warrants a chat.
A loss of sleep or appetite could also be warning signals. People exposed to stressful attacks on their person – even if the onslaught might be virtual – often complain of head or stomachaches.
Disinterest In School And Social Activities
Victims often become afraid of facing their bullies in real-life settings. If the bullies attend the same school, your child will most likely start to make excuses to avoid attending normal school, sports or social activities. If you pick up a sudden change in your child, something may be amiss.
What can you do about it?
Keep Open Lines Of Communication
Talk about what it means to be a responsible digital citizen, and what behaviours are appropriate, both as the receiver and sender of communications. Make it clear that you have an open-door policy when it comes to listening without judgement, to help understand what is really going on with your child.
Be sure to discuss any intended actions with your child first. Explain why you need to intervene to stop these cruel and emotionally exhausting attacks. If they are not comfortable for you to approach the school, there are other ways. Ask your service provider to monitor communication or to contact the perpetrator. Or change your child’s mobile number and, in extreme cases, delete their social media profiles temporarily. Also, always keep evidence of prior bullying incidents by keeping screenshots of the messages in case you need to take legal action or open a police docket. But advise your child not to retaliate or forward abusive messages to third parties. The best thing to do is to block the perpetrator from their contacts completely.
Do not ban your child from using his or her devices. It might make them feel more isolated as they will be cut off from caring friends.
Here is a helpful brochure from the Justice Department of SA in case you need to contact someone for help.
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