Cyberbullying is an abuse that takes place online and could sometimes be even more harmful than bullying in real life just because online the abusers are empowered to hide their identity.
Unfortunately, anyone using the internet can fall a victim of such treatment making this a real problem that has to be addressed. Often young children are the ones who suffer the most due to their fragile psyche. They haven’t had the chance yet to build a behavioral system to protect their mental health.
People could become victims everywhere online - on social media, on private texts and emails, in games or in different forums. Basically everywhere where people can create content, share opinions, view or participate in conversations.
Cyberbullying is a behavioral problem rather than a technological one. It could come in several forms such as sharing fake rumors about someone, intimate pictures, private-life facts, threatening people with the sole idea to harm them.
Usually, teens who are being cyberbullied have low self-esteem and are emotionally extra sensitive. As mentioned above one of the toughest parts is the anonymity that the internet gives users which provides them with a safety mask to hide behind.
The best “cure” is prevention. The second best option is being able to detect when your kids are suffering any kind of abuse and address the problem in its very beginning.
What could we as parents do to prevent cyberbullying?
Teaching our kids how to behave online is as important as teaching them how to walk and talk with people. Our online identity shouldn’t differ from our real one and kids should know that online actions are followed by consequences, too.
Here are some tips that could help parents:
- Let your child know that this could happen to anybody and it’s not her or his fault. Build a trust relationship with your kids so they know that they can freely speak with you when they face any problem (including bullying).
- Remind your kid that a lot of people get bullied at some point in their life. It’s a matter of addressing the aggression properly, overcoming it and moving forward.
- Depending on their age you can monitor their online presence. Children in primary school need less privacy but the correct guidance and protection of an adult. It’s ok for you to know their passwords and monitor closely what are they doing and with whom are they communicating. Children in high-school need more personal space. And even if you want, it’s better to observe but not sneak around and get curious.
- Create a comfortable atmosphere at home where children could talk freely about what they do online, what sites they visit, what games, movies, and music they like.
- Teach them the importance of online privacy and how to share information online. Nothing we upload online could actually be deleted..ever. By sharing information online, you are never sure who is going to see it and how will they react. Let them know you can help them if they see something inappropriate, upsetting or dangerous and that they could report it.
- Spare time and see what different networking websites your kids use. Make sure you’re able to see their profile pages. That one is tough, especially with teenages. It requires a parent-kid relationship based on trust and respect. Otherwise you can easily be banned from seeing specific content.
- Determine time limits and rules of using the web and explain why this is needed. In other words, make sure your children know that there’s life outside of the internet and online games. Ask your kids what could they add to that agenda. Involving them could make them more enthusiastic to follow these rules.
- Tell your kids that they should never respond to cyberbullying. What is more, they should keep the messages, print them out, take all the information about the bully with your involvement. This info is needed to prove there is cyberbullying and to find the person.
- Don’t threaten your kids by saying you will take away their computer. This is not the way to solve the issue. In fact, this could force them to be more secretive.
- Inform the school teachers, talk with other parents if they have noticed something online, or change in their kids’ behavior.
What could be the effects of cyberbullying?
Bullying always happens at some point in our lives in one form or another. Cyberbullying is a warning sign for both the bully and the bullied. The bully could face serious problems of psychological and academic nature - they could be expelled from school or even prevented from continuing their education in the desired university. The victim, on the other hand, could develop a serious psychological problem, leading to anxiety issues, depression, and even stress-related disorders.
Cyberbullying is not ‘just a kids’ thing. It’s a serious multileveled problem involving the family of the kid. It is getting worse, and it is a problem rooted in relationships where technology just amplifies it. The more technology steps in our lives, the more serious this problem becomes and we have to be aware of it. Ignoring it is not an option.