Here at A Courteous Communications, we have a bullying hotline that we manage and answer 24 hour a day for parents and children being affected by cyberbullies. More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online or have been a victim of cyberbullying. In the past, it was very hard to keep your kids safe from the threat of school bullies. These days the bullies are taking their behavior to the digital world and leaving clues for you, as a parent, to find and try to do something about.
The definition of cyberbullying is the use of cell phones, instant messaging, e-mail, chat rooms or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to harass, threaten or intimidate someone.
Back when you were a student, the only way your parent could tell if you had been bullied was the bruised or swollen eye; maybe you came home crying without your shoes on and that set off red flags in your parent’s minds. These days, it’s a bit harder to tell if your child is being bullied, especially because statistics say, “Only 1 in 10 teens tells a parent if they have been a cyber bully victim.”
Having open communication with your child or teen is obviously the best way to realize that they are being bullied at school or on-line. However, if your child or children don’t want to open up to you about the cyberbullying, here are signs you can discover on your own to see if your child is being bullied.
1. Avoidance of Mobile Devices
Your child, who was once all in their phone and laptop, begins to avoid their mobile devices like the plague. At first you may be grateful to see your child has turned off their mobile phone or has begun to ignore their notifications during family time. But if this is not normal for your child to do, chances are, they are avoiding or hiding from something or someone on-line. Keep a close watch on them and keep reading to see if other signs start to pop up indicating cyberbullying.
2. Negative Reaction to Messages.
Does your child appear upset, withdrawn or even angry after receiving emails, instant messages or text messages? While your child is receiving and processing the information received on their laptop or cellphone, discreetly watch and analyze their reaction. Are they overtly angry and begin to type a response quickly on their mobile device? Do they seem hurt or bothered enough to throw their phone aside or shut their laptop quickly? Any negative signs can be interpreted as your child being a possible victim of cyber bullying.
3. Avoiding Social Outings
Was your child often asking permission to visit with their friends or go out to gatherings, school games or parties? A child or teen that, in the past, enjoyed hanging out with their friends and leaving the house may pull a 180 on you and start hibernating in their room because of cyberbullying. If your child is being bullied by their classmates at school then they are going to want to avoid those friends as much as possible. Their change in social ways is a sure sign that your child needs your help. Just like you may have faked being sick to go to school the day after something embarrassing happened, your child or teen may be pulling the same faux sick routine. Pay close attention to your child’s change in social behavior.
4. Becoming Ultra-Defensive
Children are naturally defensive if they feel they are being attacked. If your child or teen becomes ultra-defensive when you ask them about their on-line activity, chances are something is going on.
5. They Have Deleted a Social Account
If your child has decided to delete their Facebook page, Twitter account or Instagram profile, something big has happened. Or, if you child has blocked certain email addresses or phone numbers from being able to connect with them on-line, someone has been harassing them. It’s time to step in at this point and really communicate with your child to find out exactly what happened that caused them to delete their account or block a user.
Know When It’s Time to Snoop
Yes, your child deserves a certain level of privacy. However, you also have a responsibility to investigate further if you see any of the above signs that indicate they may be victims to cyberbullying.
As a parent, you must set guidelines with your child and some parents often require the login and password information for their child’s social profiles. Yes, you may not always be the good guy when demanding such information, but make sure that your children know that the only way they can keep their on-line account is if a) you have the password information or b) you are friends so that can see their on-line activity.
When snooping, take a quick look at their search history. Search histories will help you discover if your teen has been searching for advice on how to handle cyberbullies. Look at the deleted folder in their email account to see if anyone has been harassing them via email. Finally, take a look at their text messages to see if classmates or strangers have been sending harassing or disturbing texts or images.
The best advice our bullying hotline can give you is to just have open communication with your child and talk with them about cyberbullying. Ask them questions about what they know about cyberbullying and then after they give you details, ask them if they’ve ever been bullied or if they have ever been the bully. Build an honest rapport with your children and they will likely know it is okay to come to you with any cyberbullying they are involved with.