Cyber Bullying: The Newest Challenge in Digital Parenting
Cyber bullying is a matter of utmost concern in this digital age, where our children are growing and thriving. Tools and technologies are like second nature to them. Challenges and dangers indeed come in handy with the internet, but it’s our responsibility as parents to safeguard our children! Now, we weren’t born with technology, so we might not have a lot of knowledge about all these new platforms, but it’s very important to be aware of the risks our children are exposed to online.
What exactly is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is basically bullying or harassment through the use of electronic devices. It comes in many forms, devices, and platforms such as social media, texting, or online gaming. Cyberbullying is a worldwide problem that is now fast growing among children and teenagers. It may be mean and harsh comments on social media, or making fake profiles, or being excluded by his friends in online activities, or trolling, or taking screenshots of private conversations and spreading it around, or leaking pictures, or threatening comments, or hacking their profile and posting inappropriate content in their name, and much more.
In what way does cyberbully impact your child?
Cyberbullying is recurring or repetitive in nature. The bully will not just post one hurtful comment and stop; he will do it again and again. It can be very distressing for your kid because it is there on their devices, and they can look and at it again and again and feel upset or bad about themselves. It can have a detrimental effect on them, resulting in depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem. We need to start taking this issue rather seriously.
How is Cyberbullying different from physical bullying?
Cyberbullying is worse than face to face bullying because people dare to say much meaner things hiding behind a screen than they will ever say to someone’s face. The child cannot be bullied once he is out of the school, in case of physical bullying, but in cyberbullying, the bully has constant access to your kid through various platforms. Cyberbullying can be difficult to escape from.
Be aware of your rights to report cyberbullying as parents. All social media platforms have family help centers. You can go there and report the problem. Try not to give electronic devices at night. Most of the dubious stuff tends to happen late at night. So, fixing the number of hours or setting a time frame for when he can have access to electronic devices is important. You can also use parental control applications to keep them away from unwanted activities.
What do the numbers say?
22.4% of respondents (aged 13-18 years) who used the internet for longer than three hours a day were vulnerable to online bullying, while up to 28% of respondents who used the internet for more than four hours a day faced cyberbullying, concluded the study titled ‘Online Study and Internet Addiction,’ released on February 18, 2020. Not the age, but the time spent on social media determines to cyberbully.
What are the Signs that your child may be getting Bullied Online?
You ask your child to get off their devices, and they get agitated or frustrated (more than normal), that could be a warning sign. Look for signs of aggression (or in some cases emotional), look for a change in habits like something they would do almost every time, but they suddenly stop doing it, they might lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, they may seem lost, doesn’t want to talk. These are usually the red flags that something is going on.
What if my child doesn’t want to talk about it or denies it when I talk to him about it?
This question arises in almost all parents. Why is my child not talking about it? Does he not trust me? Why can’t he confide in me? The reason is NOT that they don’t trust you or they don’t want to tell you or anything. Children fear that if they tell their parents that they are being cyberbullied, then they will just take their phone/laptop away or ask them to get off that particular platform completely. The first thing we need to do is to get rid of this communication barrier. Go to them and tell them that I know you enjoy using this platform, it links you to your friends, but if someone is mean to you or there is anything that upsets you, you come and tell me, I will not take away your phone or ask you to remove that application. I just want you to be safe. It will make him feel comfortable to talk to you about it. It’s that simple to gain the trust of your children!
What can you do as parents, if your child is being bullied?
First of all, consider yourself really lucky if your child is coming up to you and telling you about it. Don’t act rashly. Listen to your child carefully and think and answer. Don’t overreact. If you just discard the whole thing by not listening to him or taking his phone away, you are just making things worse for the child. He is asking you for help (maybe not directly, but he is). Listen to him and try to talk to him calmly and with an optimistic attitude towards it. Making the kids understand that it’s not about them. Tell your kids that if a person is bullying you, then it says a lot more about that person than you. Make them ask questions like- what that bully is trying to achieve with this, what is the bully’s mindset behind all this. This will make them realize that it is not actually about them; it’s about somebody else! Teach them digital empathy. If your child is witnessing cyberbullying, ask them not to like or share the post that would hurt someone, don’t engage in meaningless arguments, or gossip online. Talk to them about safe internet practices. Don’t let them lose their self-respect. Keep them busy. Ask them to take some time off their devices and spend time with you. If your child is facing cyberbullying, you need to work it through with them together. Let them know that you have their back, and they are not alone!