When the news broke that Millie Bobby Brown deleted her Twitter due to cyberbullying after a round of memes that made her appear homophobic, the entire site broke into chaos. Unfortunately, she is just one of the latest people to be the victim of such online behaviours.
While social sites are making policy changes to tackle cyberbullying, the impact isn’t obvious as quickly as it should.
Therefore, it is also up to us to combat any form of bullying and help out those in need. However, we know that it can be hard knowing where to start. Here are a few pieces of information related to cyberbulllying that could be good pointers to get the conversations going.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is “any form of bullying which takes place online or through smartphones and tablets.” Unlike face-to-face bullying, online bullying has a few traits that make it particularly nasty.
Cyberbullying is Persistent:
Digital devices offer us around the clock access to communication. However, this can be very difficult for someone who is being bullied, as it can be hard to find relief.
Cyberbullying is Permanent:
We know that the info shared online is permanent, unless it is specifically reported and removed. Negative material that might be seen by an employer or a school not only affects the victim on a personal level, but it could also influence someone else’s opinion of them.
Cyberbullying is Hard to Spot:
As parents and teachers we don’t necessarily see what happens in our kids’ feeds, private messages or online groups.
Like any of us, children can be reticent about sharing their experiences of bullying.
Fear and shame are a nasty pair. They can be a real barrier to a child sharing their worries with us. Sometimes, the fear of what action we might take, is enough to stop a child speaking up.
Knowing who is cyberbullied
In my experience, one of the first reactions when I hear about someone being cyberbullied would be
In my experience, one of the first reactions I have when I hear someone close to me is being bullied, is to be angry and outraged.
How can someone be this mean? Why would someone do this? Why has no one done anything yet?
I’ve always had to remind myself that expressing these thoughts aloud(especially in the face of the little people in my life), may not be super helpful to them.
One of the most interesting things I discovered was that if I tried to understand the child’s experience and talked through their emotions, they also respond better to my pragmatic efforts of helping them (reporting it, telling someone from the school or anything else like that.)
If you are particularly worried about cyberbullying, but you feel that your child might not reveal their experience, here are some of the easier to miss behaviours that could indicate something is not quite right:
😟Your child stops using their electronic devices suddenly
😟 They are reluctant to go to school
😟They avoid talking about their online interactions
😟 They become inexplicably sad, withdrawn or angry
😟 Physical symptoms such as tummy aches or headaches seem to appear out of nowhere
What preventative steps could I take?
If you’re struggling with what steps you could take in preventing cyberbullying, here are two things you could try:
- Make sure that your child’s privacy settings are set in such a way that strangers cannot contact them.
2. Encourage open discussion with your children about what bullying is and how it can look like.
If you would like more information regarding cyberbullying, you could try this website (US) or this one (UK). A lot of the information these sites contain are suitable for both parents and children, so you could find it useful to read them from time to time and catch-up on any developments regarding cyberbullying.