Bullying can now occur in more ways than simply any the playground, schoolyard or any other public place. When bullying occurs via the Internet, mobile phones, and other portable devices it is known as cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is painful to the victim. The majority of cases are among peers and is defined as a single or repeated insult of an individual online all the way which can include repetitive harassment and aggressive threats. One of the issues that are so difficult to deal with in controlling a cyber bully is the damage that can occur in a very short period of time over an immensely large audience. There are cases where severe cyberbullying has led to suicidal thoughts and behavior among victims. New Child Safety wants to remind you that this is not a common event but it does happen; therefore, you need to understand what cyberbullying is, how to recognize it, talk to your child about it and know what to do if your child should become a victim of a cyber bully.
One of the characteristics of cyberbullying that is so difficult to deal with is the damage that can occur in a very short period of time over an immensely large audience. There are cases where severe cyberbullying has led to suicidal thoughts and behavior among victims and yes, even death. New Child Safety wants to remind you that this is not a common event but it does happen; therefore, you need to understand what cyberbullying is, how to recognize it, talk to your child about it and know what to do if your child should become a victim of a cyber bully.
It can all begin very easily with someone posting a hurtful comment online about your child, sending a threatening or suggestive text message or manipulating information about another person that is untrue in an attempt to humiliate them. All forms of bullying are hurtful and have serious potential consequences. Cyberbullying a child using an online forum, where they are discussed, humiliated and ridiculed, even by people they do not know is a serious event. Certain cases of cyberbullying have escalated to where the child’s real name and their pictures are posted online.
There are two main types of cyber bullying. They are direct attacks and bullying by proxy. Direct attacks mean that the bully sends messages to your child directly, via their email inbox or to their mobile phones. Personal information is manipulated such as having them kicked out of chat rooms for long periods of time or stealing passwords to modify the victim’s profile to include obscenities and other derogatory remarks. One of the worst ways of direct cyberbullying is through cyber polling, where the bully sets up the victim to be rated as the most stupid or promiscuous in their school or among their peer group. This type of harassment that extends pervasively through a child’s social circle is particularly devastating and it feels to the victim as if everyone knows and shares the negative thoughts and behavior toward them.
Cyber bullying by proxy means that the bully gets an accomplice to do the direct attacks on the child. Other times the bully can pose as the child and send hateful and rude messages to all of the victim’s friends as if it is coming from the friend them self – this can be particularly difficult to explain and take an enormous amount of time and energy to rectify. The worst case by proxy is when the bully poses as the victim and posts the victim in sex offenders’ chat rooms or advertises the victim for sex. This goes on without the victim knowing and puts the child at serious risk of sexual predators.
Cyberbullying is not only distressful to a child but it can greatly hurt the child’s parents and caregivers. The humiliation and pain that the child goes through can break a parent’s heart.
There is hope. Parents and caregivers can take measures to prevent and stop cyberbullying
Discuss this topic with your child and encourage them to come and tell you about any incident online or on their cell phone that makes them uncomfortable or feels as if they are being bullied. It is important for your child to know that you will decide together what to do about it and in the beginning, they simply need to tell a parent or caregiver and get the support they need. Bullying of all kinds negatively affects our children, their social life, and their self-esteem. It is important we listen to what they have to say and do not diminish how awful the experience is for them. Perhaps it’s true what they say about sticks and stones but for our children, it is vitally important we honor their feelings.
Do not forget about other children in the home, peers or family members, who may be very upset or even traumatized by a cyberbullying event. Often other siblings are harassed and teased at school over the issue that sibling is facing. It is important to deal with an issue like bullying as a family.
Be kind and sympathize with your child~Hear your child out and reassure them that they will be safe and that you will take care of it together. Most importantly, you believe them and understand how hurt, scared, or angry they are because of the way someone is treating them.
Report the cyber bullying to the police as soon as you know about it~It is a criminal offense for anyone to degrade and humiliate another human being. Build trust between you and your child so they truly understand you will support them and understand how they feel. Talk about how important it is to report the case to the authorities even if your child will be even more afraid of revealing who the bully is for fear of reprisal. Provide as much detail as possible to the authorities such as the online record of the conversation, text messages and other forms of recordings or text that demonstrate what has happened. Additionally, if this is happening at school, make sure you tell the appropriate school official. Many schools have a zero tolerance for all types of bullying.
Consult your child’s school counselor for help~As with every other type of bullying, this is a very traumatic experience for victims. Get help for your child so that they can work through the issues with a professional. Your child’s school, pediatrician or family doctor can assist you finding the right professional support to not only help your child but assist the whole family in working through a serious issue.