When it comes to childhood pastimes, board games and jump ropes have been replaced by cell phones and tablets. While the former didn’t present many risks, electronics have opened the door to a world of cyberbullying. This modern-day form of harassment frequently involves spreading false rumors, making hurtful comments — oftentimes based on looks, race, religion, or sexuality. Autistic children are often targeted as well.
Statistics indicate that a massive 87 percent of kids have witnessed cyberbullying while 34 percent have actually experienced it.
Cyberbullying is not some simple form of child’s play. The traumatic effects include decreased self-esteem, negative changes to social life, self-harming behavior and suicidal thoughts or actions. Here’s what to look for so you can immediately address the situation.
Before anything else, it’s important to understand the different microaggressions associated with cyberbullying.
· Microassaults: Could potentially involve a display or racist imagery or language that is deliberately meant to insult one’s sexual orientation, gender or ethnicity.
· Microinsults: Negative or insensitive commentary about someone’s culture, heritage or identity.
· Microinvalidations: An intentional disregard of one’s racial identity.
Detecting whether or not your child is being bullied can be tricky as you may not know if they are just being kids/teenagers, or if something more serious is going on. Don’t ignore any warning signs such as an extreme change (more or less) in texting or using social websites coupled with either being withdrawn and upset or angry.
Or, perhaps your child asks you to have a social media account shut down and abruptly avoids social situations. It’s also possible that an outside source has opened a social media account in your child’s name to post false information. Blocking numbers or emails or acquiring copious new phone numbers and email addresses on his/her device can also be a sign that something’s fishy.
While it’s easier said than done, preventing cyberbullying should be the first course of action. For example, monitor your children’s online usage and don’t allow them to have their own computer in their room. Learn how to manage social networking platforms and ask to see their profile page. At the same time, build a trusting relationship — research has shown that a positive parent-child relationship makes it less likely that the youngster will participate in bullying behavior as to not damage a trusted bond. Have regular conversations about cyberbullying before something potentially happens — but if it does, tell your children not to respond to any threats or comments. Instead, have them print out all the messages (to include screen names and email addresses) so you can prove there’s a cyberbullying issue.
Work with your children, not against them, if they are dealing with bullying. Don’t blame them or threaten to take away their phone or computer as this may only cause them to hold back information. Instead, take any evidence to the school if that’s the origin of the problem. Speak to a guidance counselor, teacher, and/or principal about the matter before involving any other parent. Keep in mind that in many cases, these professionals have to witness an act before intervening, so request that they keep an eye out for any aggressive behavior.
Studies indicate that kids and teens are spending more than 50 hours a week (like a full-time job with overtime) in front of some form of screen. With that in mind, plan weekly activities that remove the entire family from electronics. Take a walk after dinner, play a sport in the backyard, and institute a no phone rule during mealtimes. The more your children experience real life, the less they may want to spend so much time online.
Guest post by Janice Miller (Email: email@example.com)
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in posting a guest article on family internet safety or cyber-security.
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