A child who is being bullied on the Internet may not know what to do or who to turn to for help. Most teens will not come out and tell someone they are being cyberbullied. This is why it’s important for parents to know what signs and symptoms to watch out for, so they have a chance to intervene if a child is being bullied online.
How can I tell if my child is being cyberbullied?
Before we get into the signs and symptoms list so that you can run off and play cyberbully detective, there are a few things parents can do ahead of time to ensure that their child feels they have a safe and open line of communication to report any problems that may arise:
A) Let them know ahead of time that they can come to you if they experience any problems, and that you won’t freak out and try to ban their Internet use or restrict them from their favorite sites. One of the primary reasons teens don’t seek help is because they’re afraid their parents will overreact and unplug them from their wired life.
B) Make a habit of not freaking out in other situations!!! If you are uptight about everything else, children quickly learn that you are not a trustworthy person to talk to.
C) Some experts recommend keeping the computer in a central part of the house so that you’ll know everything that goes on and your kids have no privacy when using it. We don’t necessarily agree with this tactic; it seems like a nanny-state comfort measure employed by overprotective parents, and doesn’t necessarily solve any issues. (Children can always access the Internet in other ways or without you around.) It’s also counterproductive to the trust you want to build. The job of a parent is not to micro-manage their child’s every move; but to help them deal with problems that arise and help them recover when they make mistakes. It’s a developmentally appropriate and necessary task that teens start establishing their own independent identity that is separate from their parents, and reasonable privacy is a necessary part of this. That said, we’ll leave the decision to parents about whether or not they want to do this, as it might help you stay more aware of what’s going on. Of course, computer spying software can do the same, if you want to get really nosey. (Again, not something we would encourage.)
D) You can set up Google alerts for your child’s name to alert you of any slanderous material that is being posted about your child. (See Protecting Your Child’s Online Identity for more information)
Cyberbullying signs & symptoms:
- A child spends a large amount of time on the computer, yet doesn’t seem willing to talk about what they are doing or gives dubious explanations about how the time was spent.
- A child seems upset, highly irritable or emotional after being on the computer, or after reading their text messages or email on a phone or an iPad.
- He or she avoids conversations about the computer or Internet, or seems defensive and upset when you ask about it.
- There is a sudden drop-off in computer use, and the child seems to avoid it or doesn’t use sites they used to spend time on.
- Your child shows any of the other signs of depression, stress or anxiety discussed in the section on normal bullying signs and symptoms.
If your child exhibits any of these signs, look for ways to sensitively approach the topic or gently ask them if anything is going on. Many kids will feel relieved to talk about their situation; they just need a little nudge to open up. Follow our advice on talking with children about bullying for other tips on getting a teen to open up.
Signs that your child might be the one doing the cyber bullying:
- He or she clears the screen abruptly when you come into the room.
- He or she starts becoming especially secretive about their Internet activity.
- Your teen spends a lot of time on the phone talking/gossiping about others.