Cyberbullying and what you need to know
The word Cyberbullying is thrown around, often alongside other terms like ‘trolling’ or ‘catfishing’, but what do these all mean and should you be concerned? The short answer is that they are all ways that individuals can target others, potentially your child, online, and yes you should be concerned.
The scariest thing about Cyberbullying is that it can come from any source, provided that your child is online- sometimes the perpetrators are strangers, and sometimes they are peers or even so called “friends”. Every parent wants to believe that it will never affect their child but the statistics prove it is more likely than you might think. 43% of children admit being bullied online and, although a lot of cases resolve themselves without intervention, some cases can lead to devastating mental and physical consequences.
Before the internet, bullying stopped when the victim, or perpetrator, removed themselves from that environment (which was usually school), but now, when teens are constantly connected, victims are left continuously vulnerable. Social media might not cause bullying, but it has certainly made escaping it far more difficult.
Below I will provide you with some key warning signs to look out for and what you should do if you fear your child is being cyberbullied.
Warning Signs of Cyberbullying
- Hiding their smartphone or tablet screen when you are nearby
- Suddenly or unexpectedly avoiding using the internet
- Appearing nervous when they receive an online message
- Seeming to lose interest in socialising or avoiding going into school
- Becoming withdrawn from friends or family members
- Displaying negative moods following internet use (on smartphone, tablet, or computer)
- Avoiding discussions about internet use or being overly defensive when asked about it
These are only a few warning signs, and they by no means mean that your child is definitely being cyberbullied. It can seem difficult to monitor your child’s online activity without coming across as an overbearing parent, but there are non-intrusive ways that you can monitor for signs of Cyberbullying without constantly looking over your child’s shoulder or overly restricting internet use.
Of those who had been cyberbullied, 84% have been so via Facebook, 23% via Instagram, and 21% via Twitter (see more here), all of which are social media platforms that are monitored by cyber-safety software Online Them. Online Them is a consent-based software which uses text analytics to flag up potential risk words and phrases on your child’s social media accounts that may indicate that your child is involved in cyberbullying, age-inappropriate conversation, or using adult words. The parental monitor allows you to see the conversations that these risk words have been used in as well as who said what, so that you can identify whether it is likely to be Cyberbullying, who is involved, or whether it might just be ‘banter’ among friends.
Monitor it, Don’t Ban it!
Despite it’s bad reputation, social media comes with many benefits, particularly for building friendships by acting as an extension and strengthener of real world relationships and can even be the means to create new ones. The capability to communicate via the internet may provide a more comfortable means of communication for shy or socially awkward teenagers than meeting face-to-face to help them build more friendships and boost their self-esteem.
The infinite online network that social media provides means that even teens with unusual interests or hobbies that cannot usually find groups in or after school have a place to share their enthusiasm on social media.
Communication is Key
To help tackle Cyberbullying, it is important both to instill self-awareness about bullying in children, and to encourage communication at home so that children know that it is nothing to be ashamed of discussing and that there is always support from parents, teachers, hotlines and charities such as BulliesOut who actively support bullying victims.
Stress that they can come to you if they ever encounter a problem, such as unwanted messages or bullying, and that it is nothing to be ashamed of. To stay in the loop and be aware of who your child is speaking to and when they are online, you can use parental monitoring tool Online Them which shows you what accounts they interact with the most and when and where they are using social media.