With the rapid advancement of mobile technology and the increased demand of smartphones, many children are being given access to mobile devices at a young age. What many parents sometimes are unaware is that access to these devices has the potential to create a dangerous scenario for children and teens; cyberbullying.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children in third through fifth grades that own cell phones are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying. “Parents often cite the benefits of giving their child a cell phone, but our research suggests that giving young children these devices may have unforeseen risks as well,” said Elizabeth K. Englander, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University.
It has been reported that up to 43% of children have been victims of cyberbullying at some point in their lives. And up to 58% of those kids have NOT told their parents. It’s important for parents to pay attention to their children’s behavior, both on and off their devices, in order to be aware of and help to prevent such situations.
SIGNS OF CYBERBULLYING
Below are 10 tips for parents to help spot the warning signs of cyberbullying:
- Uneasy, nervous or scared about going to school or outside.
This is a major warning sign that your child is uncomfortable in their school environment or being around their classmates. Some other signs to look out for are if your child continuously asks you if they can skip school by staying home or if they make calls asking to come home early during the school day.
- Nervous or jumpy when texting or using social media. Does your child become extremely anxious about their phone, tablet or laptop, especially while you’re in view of the device? Keeping devices in commonly used areas is an easy way to help maintain a watchful eye.
- Upset or frustrated after going online or gaming.
Have you ever witnessed your child get so angry at what’s happening on screen that they slam their device shut or throw it mid-use? This outburst of anger can be a red flag, as kids may do this as a way to distance themselves from bullies.
- Unwilling to discuss or share information about their online accounts and activity.
Increased secretiveness is another big warning sign when it comes to online bullying. Children will try to hide what is going on in order to keep it quiet since many victims are afraid to speak out, especially to parents. Having a family contract that establishes rules for your children and their online passwords and accounts is just another way to help protect them from bullying and give you, as parents, some peace of mind.
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain, headaches, stomachaches, or trouble eating. Health-related symptoms like these are just some of the many ways bullying can take its physical toll on a child. Parents need to be aware of these signs because if they continue for a long period, their child’s health can go downhill very fast.
- Trouble sleeping at night or sleepy during the day.
Restlessness is a huge factor when it comes to cyberbullying. Children are unable to sleep because they are tormented by what the cyberbullies are saying about them. This fatigue can then affect the child throughout the rest of the day, making their school day even harder, as they attempt to deal with schoolwork and classmates.
- Loss of interest in favorite hobbies or activities. If your child has suddenly lost interest in their favorite sport or hobby, it may be an indicator of cyberbullying. They may be trying to distance themselves from others making fun of them or attempting to fit in. Talk with your child and continue to encourage them to do what makes them happy, not others.
- Child suddenly seems depressed or anti-social.
If your child seems to be severely unhappy and only wants to be in their room by themselves, it could be a warning sign. To boost their mood, try planning a family outing or even a game night to get them up and out of their room. This will also let your child know that your family is there to support them.
- Withdrawn from close friends and family. This withdraw could be an attempt to push people away and distance everyone in their life, especially from those doing the bullying. Make sure your child knows you’re there for them if they want to talk about anything.
- Making passing statements about suicide or making a suicide attempt. This is an immediate red flag. These signs should not be taken lightly! Contact a professional immediately and get the school involved, if needed. Make sure your child knows that your actions are only because you’re trying to help them.
It can be difficult to recognize the signs of cyberbullying without becoming a helicopter parent, who is overly anxious and suspicious about what your child is doing on their mobile device. But noticing one or more of these signs can help you pinpoint distress in your child’s life. If that’s the case, create a safe space with open communication for your child to communicate what’s going on in their life and check out the 6 proven ways to stop cyberbullying.