>> Apr 27, 2016
What is the hardest part of raising children?
The answer parents give often varies, depending on the family, a child’s development stage, and the personalities of everyone involved. Some families may struggle with picky eaters, homework assignments, or handling angry tantrums. While each of those trouble areas are concerning, a common universal problem many parents encounter is bullying among children and teens, especially in today’s digitally rich environment.
Cyberbullying, a common form of adversity, presents a unique set of challenges that affects 87 percent of our children. The nature of cyberbullying often leaves victims feeling isolated with no place for refuge, because the harassment happens any time or day. If it isn’t addressed it can lead to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide in our sons and daughters.
Many children feel ashamed they are being targeted and often withdraw from family and friends. This is compounded when we consider 70 percent of our teens and children already take measures to hide online activity from us. With all of this secretiveness and covering their tracks, it is essential that we know what symptoms and signs in our child’s behavior could be signalling they are being bullied.
Listed below are ten warning signs to be on the lookout for:
- A sudden disinterest in his or her electronics
- Nervousness when they get notifications or messages on devices and social media accounts
- Overprotective of phones, computers, tablets, and game systems
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities they once enjoyed
- Sudden changes in appetite
- Complaints of stomach and headaches
- Trouble sleeping
- Avoidance of school and dropping grades
- Noticeable behavior changes like depression, fear, or hostility
- Dimming screens or closing windows on devices when you are around
10 Tips For Combatting Cyberbullying
Coming to the realization that a child is suffering and enduring cyberbullying is difficult to process, but there are reasons to be optimistic. Studies have shown that bullying often stops within ten seconds when parents and peers intervene. We have the power to create a kinder world by addressing cyberbullying before it escalates.
Consider the following suggestions:
- Know your school’s policies on cyberbullying so you can ask for support from the teachers or administration.
- Open all messages and comments together if a child is experiencing cyberbullying.
- Help a child review privacy and account settings for optimal security.
- Monitor a child’s cell phone and social media activity while having access to a child’s passwords, downloads, usernames, friends, and sites frequented.
- Teach social media etiquette and include sexting, oversharing, and sexual predators as a child ages.
- Always keep passwords a secret.
- Never respond to cyberbullying- it only escalates the problem.
- Document all bullying messages to show the behaviors were repeated over a period of time.
- Limit technology in the home (no bedrooms and power down after 10 p.m.) to allow kids time to unplug and unwind.
- Finally, remind kids it will get better.
Many people simply assume stopping cyberbullying is easy. You just need to delete a message or shut off a computer. Unfortunately, preventing cyberbullying is anything, but easy. A majority of our kids have access to digital devices at home, school, and on their person at all times making it a monumental task to eradicate digital cruelty.
Children need to be taught the power words have and how they should behave in a digital environment. Many experts and educators recommend following “the grandma rule”. This simple guideline reminds kids and teens to only post items they feel comfortable with their grandparents viewing. There is a big discrepancy between what our kids feel is acceptable to post and what adults consider appropriate. Unfortunately, a majority of our kids often feel a post isn’t offensive or in bad taste while we, their parents, feel exactly the opposite.
To help our kids understand when they have crossed the line, we need to give clear and defined examples of what not to say or do online. Allowing children to see concrete examples of what not to do is a great start. As an added bonus, it allows us the opportunity to begin an honest and open discussion about cyberbullying and social media. Our kids may complain, but it is an eye opening experience for everyone and we may walk away with a better understanding of the power of words and social media.
How do you help your kids combat cyberbullying?