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Parents do their best to protect against their child being bullied, but today’s technology opens the possibility of new threats. Just as bullying is an all too common occurrence in schools, a relatively new but dangerous form of online bullying, known as cyberbullying, is spreading. Children and teens spend much of their time connected through text and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and TikTok, all of which also have private messaging features. Through comments, messages, posts, and shares, cyberbullies can make their victims’ lives miserable.
Cyberbullies use names, rumors, and embarrassing photos or texts, and even physical threats against their targets. Cyberbullying can range from petty meanness to criminal offense. If your child has a digital device, they are a potential target for cyberbullying. Don’t let your child become a victim; talk to your child about cyberbullying and stay aware of what they’re doing and seeing online.
Cyberbullying Can Happen to Anyone
On Lauren’s 15th birthday, her parents Christina and James gave her a smartphone. She was ecstatic; until now, she had been using the family computer in the living room for any online activity. Her parents told her she could create Facebook and Instagram accounts, as long as she was cautious. They laid a few ground rules: Lauren shouldn’t befriend strangers online, and she would leave her phone in the living room to charge at night. Lauren enthusiastically agreed.
Lauren seemed to love her new phone and increased online privileges. But after a month had passed, she seemed a little quieter than usual. When Christina asked what was wrong, Lauren was quick to perk up and say “Nothing.” However, Lauren continued to withdraw from her parents. She began asking to keep her phone in her room at night, saying it was inconvenient to go downstairs to charge it. Instead of hanging out with friends, she came straight home after school every day and spent most of her free time alone in her bedroom. She seemed tired and didn’t eat much. Christina and James hoped that this was just a phase that would wear off in a few weeks.
After several weeks, Lauren eventually came to her parents in tears. Handing them her phone, she revealed that an acquaintance at school had begun mistreating her on her social media accounts. A quick review of comments on Lauren’s posts and instant messages revealed name-calling, mockery, humiliating comments, and threats to spread embarrassing rumors about their daughter at school. Christina and James were shocked. They had never dreamed that their daughter would become a victim of cyberbullying.
The effects of online bullying can be long-lasting. Unlike physical bullying, cyberbullying is hard for parents or teachers to spot because it happens out of sight, on the internet. Plus, cyberbullies can hide behind anonymous profiles or numbers. Cyberbullying is also persistent since children and teens are frequently connected to their devices; so long as they have their phone, the bully has a way to get to them. Cyberbullying can make a lasting impact on the reputation of both the victim and the bully since online content is instantly accessible and can be nearly impossible to remove from the internet after it’s been widely shared. College admissions, job applications, and basic personal relationships can all be negatively affected by what’s on the web.
Identifying the Signs of Cyberbullying
If you are a parent and you worry that your child might be a victim of cyberbullying, look for these warning signs:
- Withdrawal from friends and family;
- Changed behavior in schoolwork or home life;
- Nervousness or secrecy about digital devices and what happens on them; or
- Changes in mood, appetite, and sleep.
What can You do if Your Child is the Victim of Cyberbullying?
Here are five steps you can take to address cyberbullying.
- Let your child know it isn’t their fault. Victims of cyberbullying often blame themselves or start believing that they somehow deserved the mistreatment.
- Inform the principal and other staff of your child’s school. Many schools have protocols concerning cyberbullying, and states are increasingly introducing cyberbullying laws to address the problem.
- Find out how to block the cyberbully from your child’s social media accounts and phone contacts. Save screenshots as evidence of the bullying in case the bully’s parents or other authorities got involved.
- Offer to take them to counseling sessions so they can talk through what happened and receive guidance for recovery.
- Know when to ask for help from outside sources.
Parents need to stay informed about how technology is used in their children’s digital lives. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it on your own. IDShield monitors social media accounts, sending alerts for content items like image captions, posts, and comments that could be seen as a security threat or reputational risk. Rest easy knowing that IDShield helps protect your family against cyberbullying.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see www.idshield.com. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact a lawyer for legal advice or assistance. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm.