Is your child cyberbullying?

Is your child cyberbullying?
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Cyberbullying happens on the virtual playground by around middle school or high school age. Instead of kids fighting or calling each other names by the swing set, they are using emails, social media, and text messages to hurt and harass others.

Approximately 25% of students surveyed by the Cyberbullying Research Center indicate that they have been cyberbullied. In more extensive studies, about 1 in every 6 students surveyed have cyberbullied classmates. If your child is involved in cyberbully behaviors, there is help.

If you experienced bullying in childhood, it may be difficult to discover your own child is a bully.

Why Would My Child Cyberbully Others?

Cyberbullying is another form of children testing their boundaries and learning how to make their way in the world through social interaction. Sometimes those who engage in cyberbullying have reasons that can include the following:

  • Kids have been bullied themselves
  • They feel pressured by peers into doing it to be part of a group
  • Kids and their friends think that the behavior is funny
  • They want to get revenge on someone

Because the section of their brains that controls impulse and judgment is still developing during the teen years, kids don’t always understand the serious consequences of their actions. This is especially true with technology – what goes online cannot be erased.

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How Do I Know My Child is a Cyberbully?

Changes in simple behaviors can be powerful indicators of whether or not your child is involved in cyberbullying others. Some of these behavior changes can include:

  • Aggressive or defiant behavior from a typically happy child
  • And obsessive need to be on the computer or cell phone
  • An unwillingness to share their online activities with you
  • A change in sleep or eating habits
  • School work and homework not getting completed or turned in
  • Multiple profiles or email addresses

A little research into your child’s online activities can help you discover if he or she is involved in cyberbullying.

How Do I Stop My Child From Cyberbullying?

Discovering that your child is a cyberbully will involve listening, talking, and processing a lot of information with him or her. Realizing that your child is cyberbullying can be difficult, especially if you experienced bullying during childhood. Try to process these feelings away from your child, and use communication with your child to figure out what is going on with him or her. Here are additional ways to start dealing with cyberbullying.

  • Ask your child a lot of open-ended questions, possibly while driving, walking, or doing another simple activity. Sometimes not having to sit and talk face to face can help the conversation flow better.
  • Contact your child’s school. Meet with the school counselor and the principal to openly discuss what you’ve found and ask for help.
  • Find and enroll your child into a counseling service in your community. As a parent, there is a good chance that you and the rest of your family will need to be involved in this intervention, at least for a while. It will be a good opportunity to tend to your feelings about the situation as well as what is going on with your child.
  • Install monitoring software on the electronic devices that your child has access to. Online monitoring programs like Qustodio or TeenSafe allow parents to monitor their child’s online behavior, including texting, social networks, web searches, and email messages. Parents can also use tools like this to set time limits on electronic devices.

Until the situation settles down, it might be a good idea to ban electronic devices altogether, especially until consequences can be decided and your child can make amends. Remember that facing the issue together with your child will help your family become stronger, and your hard work is worth it.

The author,  Amy Williams, is a journalist and former social worker.  Please feel free to ask questions or comment.  A dialogue helps other parents who read this article too.

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