Cyberbullying takes place using electronic technology, digital devices. This includes devices and equipment such as mobile phones, computers, and tablets as well as social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Cyberbullying in some ways is similar to the traditional forms of bullying that the parents of today would be familiar with. It can take a number of different forms. Some examples of cyberbullying would be 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 it online or posting embarrassing or 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 the bullying continues through digital devices. The bullying is also done in an online environment where the act is seen by a very large audience. This can have a dramatically negative effect on a person’s mental health.
We think of a bully as being the big strong child in the yard. The 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 the traditional physical or verbal bullying. A cyberbully can use the anonymity that a digital device provides to target a child. Children can engage in this behaviour without realising the damage and harm that they are causing to the victim. As the cyberbullying is carried out on a screen, there is a serious emotional disconnect between the cyberbully and the victim.
Children who are being cyberbullied may experience great distress and it may be an even more distressing experience for them to reach out to an adult as they may not wish the adult to know what is being said or posted about them. Even if it not true. Parents and teachers need to be able to recognise the signs of a child experiencing cyberbullying as research has shown that children are not inclined to report it. It is hugely important that if it is discovered that it is stopped immediately and dealt with. This is only one of the three occasions where would advise patents to remove a device from a child. This form of bullying can have a life long impact on a victim. Their protection is paramount. Access to a device is not. Especially if the device is being used to cause harm to others.
Some Advice for Parents
- A child should never place themselves in a position of vulnerability. Posting or Sharing images permits others the ability to Comment or Judge the image and the person. In general children will 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
- Know what signs to look out for and 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 the child getting upset, angry or frustrated after using a digital device
- Is the child unwilling to discuss their experiences online
- Is the child beginning to withdraw and unwilling to go to school or socialise with friends
- Is the child reacting with sadness or anger when a call or message is received on the device
- Is the child quickly switching screens when a parent enters the room
- It is important to maintain an open line of communication with your child. 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 issues which are awkward to deal with
- Parents should approach the child in a non-judgmental and understanding way
- Contact should cease between the child and the bully immediately, neither a child or a parent should ever have a public engagement with a bully online outside of sending a clear message to STOP
- Any content that the child has received should be RECORDED, screen captured etc
- The bully should then be BLOCKED on the social media platform that they are engaging the child on
- Finally the matter should be REPORTED to the social media site, School, Club or Gardai
- This type of behaviour should never be tolerated. Children should be encouraged to report if they see others being cyberbullied
- Parents also have to realise that it may be their child who is in fact the bully. Very often, especially for younger children they may cyberbully another without realising that they are even doing it. What they may see as a bit of fun or slagging may in fact be harmful cyberbullying. 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
- Ensure that it stops and if necessary remove the child’s access to the digital device