Bullies have been around forever, in the school yard stealing lunch money from the “scrawny kid”. Even young girls have been doing their own form of bullying, excluding the “nerdy girls” and gossiping. But with technology and gadgets being so accessible, a new kind of bullying has emerged amongst young people, online bullying.
Kids these days don’t just have to fear their attackers in the halls of school. They have to fear them in the privacy of their own bedrooms, via their phones, tablets, and laptops. A child may be involved in cyberbullying in several ways. They can be bullied, bully others, or be a witness to bullying.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating, or threatening nature. Cyberbullying takes place over digital devices such as cell phones, computers, and tablets. It can occur through SMS text messages, iMessage, or take place online via social media, forums or gaming. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, mean, and false content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information to cause embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses over into unlawful and criminal acts.
1 in 4 high school students are victims of cyberbullying. Only 1 in 6 go on to report or admit being a victim of cyberbullying. Although all states have laws requiring schools to respond to traditional bullying, many of them do not have laws that specify the role a school should play in cyberbullying which typically takes place outside of school.
Online bullying can be a simple text, tweet, or comment to a Facebook status that is mean or cruel. But it can get much more serious than that. Some bullies will create fake social media accounts impersonating their victims to post personal information like photos and videos designated to hurt and embarrass them. These bullies are relentless and create accounts solely to harass and bully their victims.
Signs of Cyberbullying
It’s important as a parent to be able to recognize the signs of cyberbullying. Most children and teens do not admit to being bullied. They are ashamed and embarrassed. Also, they fear they will lose their phone and computer privileges.
Some signs of cyberbullying may include:
- Being emotionally upset during, or after, using the Internet or cell phone
- Being very secretive or protective about digital life
- Withdrawal from family members, friends, and activities
- Avoiding going to school or group gatherings
- Slipping grades and getting in trouble at school
- Acting out in anger at home
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Wanting to stop using the computer, tablet or cell phone
- Being nervous or jumpy when getting a direct message, text, or email
- Avoiding discussions about computer or cell phone activities
If your child is exhibiting any of these behaviors, he or she may be a victim of cyberbullying. Signs may vary from child to child but these are the most common signs. If your kid isn’t showing any of these signs it doesn’t mean they are not being bullied. They may just be internalizing the harassment they are experiencing and they need an outlet to deal with their feelings.
The Effects of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying has many psychological and long term effects on its victim. Sometimes, the damage can never be undo. There can be some really heavy and painful consequences. Severe, long-term, or frequent cyberbullying can leave both victims, and bullies at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders.
Other effects include feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable, powerless and difficulty feeling safe. They can feel exposed and humiliated knowing the social posts are out there for the world to see. And once its on the web, it’s out there forever. Feelings of dissatisfaction with who they are, doubting their worth and value.
Becoming disinterested in life, feeling it is hopeless and meaningless. Feeling alone and isolated because they have cut off everyone. They may even experience physical illness such as headaches, stomach aches, ulcers or skin conditions due to the extreme stress.
And in the most severe cases, victims will experience suicidal feelings. Kids that are constantly tormented by their peers from online bullying, will begin to feel so hopeless, they may feel the only way to escape the pain is through suicide. Cyberbullying causes more kids to consider suicide than traditional bullying. 16% of students consider suicide, 13% create a plan and 8% have made a serious attempt.
How to Respond to Cyberbullying
If your child comes to you to report they are being cyberbullied offer them comfort, support and love. Make sure to let your child know that this is not their fault. Bullying says more about the bully than the victim. People who are hurting go on to hurt other people. Praise your child for doing the right thing and talking to you about what is going on. Let them know that they are not alone and that together you will come up with a plan and figure everything out.
You’ll want to report the problem to your child’s school, either the principal, a counselor or a teacher. Many school districts have protocols in place for responding to cyberbullying. Let your child know that you are contacting the school to make sure they are included in the plan. You want them to be comfortable with the steps you are taking. If your son or daughter agrees, you may also arrange for mediation with a therapist or counselor at school who can work with your child and/or the bully.
Don’t Respond To Bullies
Encourage your child not to respond to the cyberbullying attacks. This will just add fuel to the fire and make things worse. The bully is looking to get a reaction from your child. Make sure to save and print screen shots of the threatening messages, pictures and texts as they can be used as evidence with the school, the bully’s parents or even the police.
After collecting all of the evidence, have your child block the bully on all of their devices including social media accounts, cell phone and email. Your child may be tempted to check their phone and social networking accounts to see if the bully has found another way to contact them. Limit access to their technology until the problem is under control. Do not let them use their phone, laptop or tablet in the privacy of their bedroom. All devices and access to technology should be used under parental supervision.
Ask to friend or follow your child on social media sites, and promise not to comment or post anything on their profile. Most kids don’t want to be friends with their parents out of fear they will post embarrassing photos or posts. So, respect that it is a privilege to be friends with them on social media and monitor what is happening on their pages. Write up cell phone and social media contracts that you are willing to enforce that will keep them safe online.
How to Find Out If Your Child Is Being Cyberbullied
Not all children and teens will speak up if they are being cyberbullied and it can be hard to read the signs since many of them mimic typical teenage behavior. Monitor their phone to find out if they are being targeted by bullies. By using cell phone spy software, you can see their activities including texts, calls, emails, social media posts, photos, and videos. Compared to some other parental monitoring apps, this software is undetectable and your child will not find out you’re monitoring them.
If your child is being bullied offline or online, you will know by using spy software. These software apps are able to track all Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat messages without rooting. It will also monitor and track all of their SMS text messages and iMessages. Profanity alerts notify you of certain language and terms being used across the device.
The software logs every keystroke and website visited. If your child is Google searching something dangerous in response to cyberbullying, you will be able to intervene before something harmful happens. While it is nearly impossible to prevent cyberbullying from happening, with this technology you can be proactive with your child and intervene before matters get out of hand
How to Find Out Who is Cyberbullying Your Child
If you have been tracking and monitoring your child’s phone with cell phone spy software or a parental app, you will have access to their messages and be able to identify the source of the bullying. In most cases, children are not sophisticated and will bully directly from their own social media accounts or phones making them easily identifiable. But what if the bullying is coming from an adult’s account or an unknown phone number?
If and when an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment, or cyberstalking, which is a crime punishable by jail time. Cyber-harassment usually pertains to threatening or harassing email messages, instant messages, or to blog entries or websites dedicated solely to tormenting an individual. Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, email or other electronic communications to stalk, and generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviors.
To find out who is behind the social media profile, try running a Person Search. This will give you information on the person such as phone numbers, addresses, email, aliases, criminal records, sex offender history, licenses and permits. A person search is a great tool to finding out who the adult is behind the cyberbullying of your child.
Reverse Phone Lookup
To find out who is behind the unknown number texting and harassing your child, do a Reverse Phone Lookup. Your search includes the name of the owner, the type of phone line being used, and previous owners of the phone number. If it is a child’s phone, you will get the parent’s name listed on the account. If it’s some stranger harassing your child, you can go to the authorities and let them takeover.
What if My Child is the Bully?
Finding out that your child is the bully can be really heartbreaking. But it’s important that you address cyberbullying promptly and head on and do not wait for it to get out of hand. The damage your child is inflicting on another child is really upsetting. But if you don’t help your child get control of the situation, he or she could face criminal charges. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it.
Express to your child how their actions and words have an impact on others and how they are hurting people. What they might think is a joke, and not see that teasing can be really detrimental to someone else’s mental health. Cyberbullying is unacceptable and there needs to be consequences for their actions. Restrict or limit the use of their devices to the family room. Do not let them use their laptop, tablet or phone in the privacy of their room. If the behavior continues, revoke the privilege all together.
Use A Cell Phone Spy App
You can monitor your child’s phone activity with cell phone spy software, to make sure they have stopped engaging in cyberbullying and are not harming anyone online. But bullying is a sign of an underlying issue so you’ll need to get to the heart of the situation. Enlist the help of your son or daughter’s teachers or guidance counselors. Your child may feel comfortable speaking to a therapist or mental health professional that can provide them with professional counseling and teach them how to cope with their anger, hurt, frustration and emotions in a healthy way.
Most importantly, set a good example at home for your child. Do not tease each other or allow any form of bullying to occur under your roof. Be a good role model for your child online. Don’t be an internet troll and post positive healthy messages to your own social media pages. And lastly, make sure your child knows that you love and support them no matter what.
It’s really important that you know the signs of online bullying and talk openly to your kids about what to do if they are the person being bullied. Having an open line of communication with your child will increase the chances of them coming to you in the event something happens to them while online. Using cell phone spy software can be a lifesaving tool for your child and save them years of anxiety and depression as a result of cyberbullying.
If you find out that your child has been the victim of online bullying, be there to love and support them. Include them in your plan of action. Keep the lines of communication open with them. Take them to a therapist if needed. Encourage them to spend time with their friends so they do not isolate. Help them to feel safe again.
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