What is Cyberbullying?
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 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 the bullying continues through digital devices. What makes Cyberbullying particularly hurtful in an online environment, is knowing a very large audience witness it. This can have a dramatically negative effect on a person’s mental health.
Who are Cyberbullies ?
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. There is an emotional disconnect between the cyberbully and the victim. The cyberbully sees only the content on the screen, not the actual impact the content is having on the victim.
Victims of Cyberbullying
For victims of cyberbullying, this can be a very upsetting experience. Sometimes, it can be even more distressing for them to reach out to an adult. Thare are times when victims do 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 steps taken to deal with it. There are only three occasions where we advise patents to remove a device from a child. This is one of them. As cyberbullying can have a life long 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.
Advice on Cyberbullying
- 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 you child upset, angry or frustrated while using a digital device
- Unwilling to discuss their experiences online
- Beginning to withdraw and unwilling to go to school or socialise with friends
- Does a child react with sadness or anger after receiving a call or message
- 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
STOP, SAVE, BLOCK, REPORT
- 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
- Save all the harmful content the child receives, screen captured etc
- BLOCK the sender on the platform
- REPORT the matter to the social media site, School, Club or Gardai
- Cyberbullying should never be tolerated. Alweays encourage children to report, if they see others being cyberbullied online
- 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