November 19, 2017

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Helping Your Child Navigate Cyberbullying

CyberbullyingBeing a kid isn’t easy. Would you want to go back to the awkward years of growing up and trying to fit in with your peers? The world today is different than the one you or I grew up in. While change can be a wonderful thing, it also brings new challenges for kids—things like cyberbullying.

Cyber-what? Cyberbullying is bullying through online and electronic communication like social media, text messages, chats and websites. Just as everything else has become more digital, so has bullying. Digital bullying is when a child or group of children use internet mail or electronic media to spread rumors or hateful comments directed at an individual. Some bullies publish a child’s address or phone number. The activity is anonymous so it is often more damaging than face-to-face confrontations.

Unfortunately, kids who experience this kind of bullying are often bullied in person, too.  Though bullying has never been easy to deal with, kids who are bullied today have a harder time getting away from it. Bullying can happen anywhere, anytime.  No federal laws exist against cyberbullying, but some states may have them. Minnesota’s anti-bullying law covers cyberbullying.

So how do you know if your child is being bullied? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says to watch for these signs:

  • Lack of interest in school or other social activities
  • Seeming unusually sad, withdrawn or moody
  • Becoming upset after being on a cell phone or computer
  • Avoiding your questions about what is going on

For those who are being bullied, it’s important to have a supportive adult to help them navigate the situation and put an end to the bullying.

Sometimes even after a bullying situation—either online or offline—has been resolved, there are lasting effects.  Bullying can wreak havoc with a child’s self-esteem. It can set off a train reaction that may lead to withdrawal, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, depression, stress, panic attacks and even suicidal thoughts. If you notice any of these changes in your child, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional. A psychologist can help the child deal with bullying by providing tips and tactics to live their life normally again.

No child should have to live with being bullied. Even if you don’t think your child needs to see a professional about being bullied, it’s important to talk to your kids about bullying and keep the lines of communication open. As parents, we have to set an example and take the lead to put a stop to bullying before it starts.

If you think your child is being cyberbullied, follow these tips from the AAP.

  • Listen to your child and give them advice.
  • Ask what you can do to make them feel safe.
  • Save all e-mails, IMs and texts
  • Try to talk to your child and other parents to see what may have happened
  • Talk to school staff and be prepared to help if they aren’t sure how to get involved
  • Consider installing special programs to monitor your child’s online behavior.  This may potentially uncover situations your child may not know how to bring up to you.
  • Make a game plan to deal with bullying.

Your child should not be a bully or a victim.

For more information about children’s internet safety, visit netsafetyapp.org.