Cyber Bullying: What Parents Need to Know

Childrens Medical Group Childbully

We’ve recently written an article about “The Internet and Your Children’s Safety“ and now we’ll spend some time specifically dealing the issue of cyberbullying. Simply put, cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication (i.e. the Internet, emails, texting, etc.) to bully a person.  This frequently involves a person sending messages that are intimidating, hateful, and/or threatening in nature.

Bullying among children itself, has been around forever, and while there are many manifestations of “bullying” and many ways a given child may respond to it, bullying can affect your child’s mental health, physical health, and social skills.

Cyber bullying has taken bullying to the next level!  Online bullies are faceless and it is, therefore, often harder to identify and stop cyber bullies. However, the negative effects they can have on your children are just as powerful as if they’re occurring in person.  Added complications are the ability for the cyber bully to easily increase his/her instances of bullying and the reluctance of many children to report when they are experiencing cyberbullying.

Here are signs that may alert parents or guardians that their child is a victim of cyberbullying:

  • Your child experiences considerable sleeping difficulties and/or frequent nightmares.
  • S/he frequently becomes noticeably nervous when receiving an email or text.
  • Your child is often sick and/or pretends to be sick.
  • Declining interest in schoolwork, after-school activities, and/or failing grades could indicate they are being cyberbullied.
  • Signs of unexplained anger, depression, and/or low self-esteem (especially after spending time online) could be a clear indication of bullying.
  • Your child suddenly turns off her/his device and appears agitated.
  • S/he is experiencing unexplained weight loss or gain.

Here are some signs that may indicate that your child is being a cyberbully:

  • They often behave aggressively.
  • Your child often does not accept responsibility for his/her actions and often blames others for his/her problems.
  • They frequently get into trouble at school (i.e. detention, warnings from teachers, sent to the principal, etc.)
  • Your child has money or belongings that you can’t account for.
  • S/he has friends that you perceive as children with bullying tendencies.
  • They often appear cocky, smug, or rude after being online or after sending texts.

What can parents or guardians do if they feel their child is a cyberbully or a victim of cyber bullying? The first thing is to acknowledge there is a problem. Second, you should keep records of the cyberbully behaviors. Third, parents of both children should try and meet to determine what is causing the bullying. They may also wish to meet with school officials to see if they can offer support and guidance.  Fourth, you should consider contacting your pediatrician to see if there are underlying problems that are creating the bullying behavior or if there are signs of physical abuse that need to be addressed.  Finally, and in extreme cases, it may be necessary to get the police involved.  If you believe the situation might place your child (and/or other children) in serious danger, or the other parent(s) and/or school officials can’t help you to stop the cyberbullying, you may need to contact the police. This is valid step to consider whether your child is being a cyberbully or is a victim of cyberbullying.