What is cyberbullying? How do you know if your child or teen is being victimized? What can you do about it? How do you prevent it?
In the age of technology, Canadian kids and teens are connecting more often and easily with one another than ever before. Exchanges over the internet can occur almost instantly visually, via audio, or by text. There are potential benefits of this technology for young people such as the ability to stay connected with distant friends and family. Youth who have difficulty making friendships in traditional settings have an opportunity to make meaningful social connections online. The internet also allows youth to have access to knowledge quickly and easily on various topics and provides opportunities to practice technical skills. Whether for entertainment or school purposes internet use has become ingrained in young people’s daily lives.
Despite the benefits, this medium of interaction can be used in a negative manner and has become an avenue for cyberbullying to occur.
Cyberbullying is when computers, cellphones, or other electronic devices are used to embarrass, humiliate, torment, threaten or harass someone else. Research has shown that cyberbullying is most common in teenagers, although it has also been observed and reported in young children and also in adulthood.
Cyberbullying victimization is a serious issue with negative consequences that may include poor academic performance, school dropout, and physical violence. Cyberbullying can affect a person’s reputation, happiness, feelings of self-worth and overall mental health. It has also been associated to suicidal ideation in some victims.
It is important to stay calm when you learn your child is being cyberbullied. Many youth feel ashamed, are afraid of having technology taken away, and fear they may make things worse if they do tell their parents.
- Talk with your child about cyberbullying and how to prevent it in the future
- Inform your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or cell phone provider
- Inform your local police
- Inform the students teacher or school principal – find out the school policy on bullying
- Save the cyberbullying messages/ content (this is evidence you may need later on)
- Get outside help—if your child is showing signs of depressed mood, isolation, anxiety, thoughts of dying or self-harm seek the help of a mental health professional immediately
How can parents help prevent cyberbullying?
- Educate yourself on the devices and websites your child is using
- Develop rules with your child about safe behaviours on all technology
- Be aware of cyberbullying and educate your kids on how to prevent it
How can parents help prevent cyberbullying?
- Never give out personal information or passwords
- Don’t believe everything you see or read online
- Learn about privacy settings and reporting features on any sites you use
- Be careful about what comments you post and which photos you share online
Examples of cyberbullying include:
- Posting rumours or lies about someone online to cause embarrassment
- Distributing embarrassing or intimate pictures of someone by posting in a public area or through email
- Mean or threatening messages sent to someone via text, email, or a social network site
- Tricking someone online into sharing personal or embarrassing information and sharing the information with others
- Hacking into someone’s account (or using their password) and pretending to be them to post or send hurtful messages to others with the intent of causing the other person harm
- Making up fake accounts to ridicule others
Unique features of cyberbullying:
The bully can be more aggressive and cruel since it is easier when they can’t see the hurt it causes or be seen by their target.
The bully can be anonymous and consequently harder to trace, cause more fear and feelings of helplessness in the victim.
Victims can be reached at anytime and anywhere, even when they are at home.
Insulting, or embarrassing information can spread quickly and widely, making it difficult to delete the content and increasing the humiliation. Parents may help their child sooner if they maintain open communication and watch for signs they may be experiencing cyberbullying. Some warning signs include:
- Avoidance of computer or mobile device. Or, an increasing amount of time online or via text
- Upset, withdrawn or angry mood after spending time online or on mobile device.
- Secretive online activities and avoidance of conversations related to computer and mobile device.
- Reluctance to attend social functions once enjoyed, refusal to go to school, not wanting to leave the house, and/or withdrawal from family and friends.
- Falling behind in school/ marked reduction in grades.
- Difficulty sleeping, or showing less interest in eating.
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