There are many types of bullying and one of the newest, most damaging and widespread is cyberbullying. Although the interactions are not done in person, the effects can be extremely devastating and sometimes tragic to our youth. Parents need to be aware of what cyberbullying is and how to prevent it from affecting their children before any damage is done.
Cyberbulling is the harassment of another person through the use of electronic technology and devices such as computers, cell phones, tablets and laptops. It can be a source of rumors and negative dialogue that are spread to other individuals through their personal devices. Individuals may also post false information as if they were the victim. The communication is usually sent through texts, photos, videos and emails. It is never physical nor done face-to-face with an individual. According to the Pew Research Center, about one in three teenagers has been the recipient of some form of cyberbullying with occurrences more common for girls than boys.
One of the most damaging effects of this type of bullying is a loss of self-esteem. The youth involved may feel attacked, lonely, friendless and her self-confidence may be severely affected. Withdrawal, sleep issues, depression and anxiety often are some of the symptoms. Health issues such as weight loss, headaches and stomachaches also may become common. There have been many instances of teens who have become so despondent over cyberbullying that they have taken their own lives.
If subjected to this abuse, your child may suddenly have adverse reactions after spending time on his device. He may become angry, despondent or even unwilling to use these same devices. Grades may drop and he may not want to attend school and other activities. Incidents of truancy, acting out and angry outbursts may greatly increase. Signs that he may be self-harming — or "cutting" — may become evident especially if he starts wearing long-sleeved shirts, even in very warm weather. Cyberbullying may eventually lead to alcohol and drug abuse if not recognized and effectively dealt with in time.
Individuals who embarrass, attack or start rumors about others through the use of technological devices may have once been bullied. They may always seem to be on the phone or computer, have several social media accounts at one time and hide these from parents or other authority figures. They may use cyberbullying to attack their victims as it is an easy and anonymous form of bullying.
Parents need to be proactive in preventing this type of bullying from affecting the well-being of their offspring. They should be involved in the online activities of all youngsters in the household and be connected to any online social media accounts that their children use. Make a point to talk to your children about their online experiences and be aware of the previously mentioned signs and symptoms of cyberbullying. It may even help if you tell your youngster how you may have been bullied in your younger years. If your child comes forward and reports incidences of this abuse, he should be complimented for doing so.
If this bullying is taking place, advise your child not to respond as this will make the situation even worse. The antagonist should be immediately blocked and reported to the social media site. If it is someone from his school, inform the school administration and follow up to ensure consequences are put into place. Report severe cases to the police.