In order for a parent to deal with cyberbullying, there are some specific yet clear and distinct steps that should be taken under consideration.
What is Cyberbullying?
Parents should be aware of what cyberbullying is and what it looks like.
- is an aggressive act or behaviour;
- is carried out using electronic means;
- is carried out by a group or an individual;
- is either repeated over time or a once-of incident;
- goes against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself
The main difference between bullying and cyberbullying is that the latter happens online.
What are the types of Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying can happen in several ways:
- Mean text messages
- Writing harsh emails
- Starting or spreading rumours about someone online
- Posting or sharing embarrassing pictures or videos of someone without their permission
- Setting up fake profiles and posing as someone else
- Creating cruel websites as an attack on someone
How do I recognise Cyberbullying? – Signs of Cyberbullying
When your child(ren) does not tell you that they are cyberbullied, there are some signs (some similar to bullying) that can reveal the incident:
- emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
- more time spent alone (e.g. in their room)
- no interest in family/friend activities
- avoidance of school
- withdrawn from social interaction with peers
- decreased school performance
- changes in mood
- sleep and eating disorders
- reluctant to be online and to chat with friends online
- sudden decision to stop using electronic means
- nervousness when receiving a text
- avoiding discussions about online activities
What will happen to my child if he/she is Cyberbullied? – Impact of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can cause to kids the following (apart from others):
- Loss of confidence and self-esteem
- Substance abuse
- Panic attacks
- Post-traumatic stress
- Attempted suicide, suicide
What should I do as a parent?
First you should understand if this is cyberbullying (see sections above). Once you make sure that this is about a behaviour of cyberbullying, follow the steps below:
- Try to comfort your child(ren) by discussing similar experiences.
- Support your child(ren) and explain that it is not their fault that they were cyberbullied. They have someone by their side and you will help him/her to overcome it.
- Advise child(ren) not to reply. They should not show that they are upset as it may worsen things.
- Advise your child(ren) to keep the message/post etc. (screenshot it) as it can be used as proof if there is any further need.
- Tell your child(ren) to block the person/people who send these messages (see relevant resources on how to block a person, contact etc. on social media).
- Tell your child(ren) to always report posts or people that make them feel upset (see relevant resources on how to report people, posts, etc. on social media).
- Refer to the school anti-bullying policy. It will allow you to get information about how an incident or report you make to the school is handled.
- Inform your child(ren)’s school. Let first your child(ren) know about your intentions to ask support from the school and report the incident to the appropriate person at school.
- Report the incident to the Gardai. If you have no control of your child(ren)’s cyberbullying, make a formal report to the Gardai.
How can I prevent Cyberbullying?
There are several ways to prevent cyberbullying that can be based on direct parent-child communication, restrictions or monitoring of Internet use. More specifically:
- Be approachable. Listen to your child(ren) when they approach you and ask you for advice on specific online issues (opportunities and risks that they may face) or when they want to discuss a specific issue.
- Initiate regular discussions with your child(ren) about online issues.
- You can set time-limits of your child(ren)’s internet use, have access to their social media accounts, or apply tools that restrict access to online platforms. That way you can be informed directly about the threats that your child(ren) may face. Keep in mind to explain to your kids the reasons you are doing so and what are the restrictions you will put in place.
- Keep all the digital devices in a common place, where you can check your child(ren)’s Internet use at any time.
- Ask your child to use the Internet (especially when they use smartphones) when you are present. Important note! In order to be able to apply all the above, you need to educate yourself about online risks and online safety.