Cyber bullying is a fast-growing problem in our Internet-driven society today causing fear, depression, and a growing number of suicides every year. Children and teenagers may not be open about their Internet usage with their parents, as they generally have a fragile sense of self and a smaller understanding of dangerous behavior on the Internet. Often times, children may not be open about or even recognize when they become victims of cyber bullying. Here are five ways to recognize cyber bullying:
A cyber bully’s biggest drive is the attention they receive and their ability to get a reaction out of someone else. Talk to your kids about anyone you notice eliciting this behavior on their Facebook wall, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media outlets. As a parent, it’s a good idea to occasionally monitor your children’s online usage and keep up with the latest social media sites and trends. Talk to your kids about how to react when someone is clearly trying to make them upset hurts their feelings, or harasses them. The biggest defense against an attention-seeking cyber bully is to deny them any sort of reaction or response at all.
Asking a lot of personal questions
Teach your children the importance of keeping personal information private when it comes to the Internet. A cyber bully may ask a lot of questions to figure out a victim’s insecurities, but asking personal questions could also be a sign of attempting phishing or finding out information that could lead to harm. Depending on your children’s age and how Internet savvy they are, you may want to make it a rule that they cannot even use their real names when creating online profiles for various social media networks. Your children should be cautious of posting photos that show their location information and shut off their location information on their cell phones. Make it a rule that your children should not interact with people online who they do not know in real life, as cyber bullies tend to create anonymous profiles to hide behind.
Withdrawing from technology
If your child is being cyber bullied, you may notice them acting upset, jumpy, depressed, or withdrawing completely from technology as their mood changes. Cyber bullies make others feel unsafe on the computer, so if your child is showing uncharacteristic signs of resistance toward using the computer or turning on their phone, it may be a sign that they are afraid of someone who is trying to contact them. Cyber bullies are often people your child might know from school or organized activities, they may be bullying them in person as well as over the Internet when your child comes home. If you see signs of your child withdrawing from social activities and the Internet, this may be the case. Be sensitive when approaching your child if you think they are being bullied online. They may feel ashamed and afraid to take action for fear of the backlash from their bully.
If someone seems pleasant and communicates normally on a public forum, but then sends private, aggressive, and hurtful messages, this is a sign of cyber bullying. It is often difficult to combat cyber bullying with children since cyber bullies can be smart about not leaving behind public evidence of their psychological torture. Schools tend to be hesitant to get involved in incidents that happen outside of school, and the authorities are hesitant to get involved without proof of harassment. Even social media sites will not verify who is a “real person” versus an individual with a fake account. Talk to your children about saving conversations that seem troubling. It is helpful to keep a record of cyber bullying in case it is needed as evidence in the future against the person bullying your child. You can contact the social network site administration to report abuse, however, your best bet is to sometimes contact law enforcement if it is taken too far. You will need specific examples to show the social media site or law enforcement to prove your case.
Joking vs. harassment
Many times cyber bullies can defend their behavior by claiming that it was just a joke. Children and adolescents often find difficulty in determining the fine line between a harmless joke and ongoing harassment. Make sure you children understand the difference of when they need to stand up for themselves and when they need to back off because they may be hurting someone else’s feelings. Many instances of cyber bullying start as jokes or teasing that simply get out of hand. Make sure your children understand that if something doesn’t feel right no matter what side of the situation they are on, it might be time to stop or ask for intervention from a trusted adult.
For more information on cyber bullying, click here.