Cyberbullying, what is it?
Cyberbullying takes place using electronic technology, digital devices. This includes devices and equipment such as mobile phones, computers, tablets, as well as social media sites, text, messages, chat, and websites. Cyberbullying in some ways is similar to the traditional forms of bullying parents of today are familiar with. It has a number of different forms. Some examples of cyberbullying are, sending threatening messages, spreading lies or rumours online, pretending to be someone else online by creating a fake social media profile, or taking control of a person’s account. Tricking people, to accept a person as Friend or Follower, just to access a targets Personal Information. Then posting or sharing the content online. Posting embarrassing hurtful images or videos of someone online.
The main difference between traditional bullying and cyberbullying is that cyberbullying is a 24 hour 7 day a week experience. There is no longer a safe zone for the victim to retreat to. Even in the safety of their own home, a cyberbully can continue to engage with a victim through their digital devices. What makes Cyberbullying particularly hurtful in an online environment, is knowing that there is a very large audience. This can have a dramatically negative effect on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
Who are Cyberbullies?
We think of a bully as being the big strong child in the yard. However, a cyberbully may be the most unassuming child in the school. We have often found that the cyberbully may have been a victim of cyberbullying or a more traditional form of physical or verbal bullying in the past. A cyberbully can often attempt to use the anonymity the online world affords, to target another.
Children can engage in this behaviour without any realisation of the damage and harm that they are causing to the victim. There can be a very strong emotional disconnect between a cyberbully and an online victim. Studiess are increasingly identifing the cause as a complete lack of empathy for a victim. The cyberbully can only see the content on the screen, not the actual impact the content is having on the victim. Without these essential non-verbal cues, bullying online can continue far longer than it would, had the bully and victim been face to face.
Victims of Cyberbullying
For victims of cyberbullying, this can be a very upsetting and traumatic experience. Sometimes, it can be even more distressing to even consider reaching out to an adult. Thare are times when a victim does not want an adult to know what has been posted about them online. Parents and teachers should learn how to recognise the signs of a child experiencing cyberbullying. Research has shown, that children are not always inclined to report it is happenning.
It is hugely important to stop cyberbullying the moment it is discovered and that steps taken to deal with it. There are only three occasions where we advise patents to take a digital device away from a child. This is one of them. As cyberbullying can have a lifelong impact on a victim, their protection is paramount. Access to a device is not, especially if the device is used to cause harm to others.
Some advice to parents on Cyberbullying
- A child should never place themselves in a position of vulnerability. Posting or sharing images gives others the ability to comment or judge a person based on their content. People generally post what they believe is the best version of themselves online. A public attack on this online persona, can have devastating and long lasting effects on a victim.
- Parents need to know now what signs to look out for. If you see them, you may need to have a conversation with your child.
- Has the child suddenly become uninterested in digital devices and chooses to avoid them
- Is your child upset, angry or frustrated when they use a digital device
- Are they unwilling to discuss their experiences online
- Have they begun to withdraw socially or perhaps they are unwilling to go to school
- Does a child react with sadness or anger after receiving a call or message
- Do they quickly switch screens when a parent enters the room
- It is vitally important to maintain an open line of communication with your child always, especially regarding anything online. This can be a very distressing and upsetting experience for the child. It may also be an uncomfortable experience for a parent because you may have to deal with issues which may be very awkward to deal with
- Parents should always approach a child in a non-judgmental and understanding way
Always remember to STOP, SAVE, BLOCK, REPORT
- In the event of a cyberbullying incident, contact should cease between the child and the bully immediately, so STOP all further communication
- Save all the harmful content the child receives, screen captured, using another device to take a picture of the content, etc
- BLOCK the sender on the platform, on the device, or both
- REPORT the matter to the social media site, School, Club and authorities
- Cyberbullying shouldn’t ever be tolerated. Always encourage your children to report any incidents cyberbullying. It’s good to remind children that they should always let someone know if they see someone they know being cyberbullied online also. Being a bystander contributes to the experiencing of bullying.
- Parents also have to realise that it may be their child who is in fact the bully. Very often, younger children can cyberbully others without even realising their actions constitute bullying. What they might perceive as a bit of fun or slagging, may be causing distress to another child.
- In this instance parents should
- Acknowledge that there is a problem
- Discuss with the child their online behaviour to see to understand that they are cyberbullying
- Help the child understand how it feels for the victim of the cyberbullying. Teach them the importance of Empathy
- Ensure that it stops and if necessary remove the child’s access to the digital device
For more information please take a look at our Parental Control Guide