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9 Ways To Identify If Your Child is Being Cyber Bullied

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Cyber bullying is a serious and complex issue that a brief article like this cannot even start to address. Many parents will be able to manage most minor occurrences but whenever cyber bullying becomes anything more than fleeting in nature, professional advice should be sought.

The information below provides some guidance for those cases which may be considered minor.

What are the typical warning signs of cyber bullying?

• Device habits change all of a sudden.
• Physical tics start such as cracking their knuckles or biting their nails.
• They may withdraw themselves to their room and never want to use their devices in a place where they can be seen.
• Your child deletes a number of their social media profiles.
• They start blocking people from contacting them.
• Visual appearance or personal hygiene worsens.
• Not wanting to go to school or leave the house.
• Falling behind in school work.
• Physically exhausted or having difficulty sleeping.

How Can Parents Help?

1. Open the dialogue

Talk to your child. Try and relate to them by describing a time when you were bullied. Everyone goes through experiences that can be related to – dig deep and find yours. It’ll help your kid feel like they are not alone. Some top tips for these conversations;

  • Don’t criticise them for not coming to you earlier.
  • Use open-ended questions to keep the dialogue alive and rich in detail.
  • Listen without over-reacting. Any strong reaction by yourself will make them feel singled out, like it isn’t a common occurrence which in turn can make them feel vulnerable and alone. Take time to listen to them and assess the severity of the bullying. If they have handled it incorrectly, don’t judge them. They are new to this and likely have no idea how to make it stop.
  • Assess the situation and your child’s role. There has likely already been a degree of retaliation (it
    is only natural) so evaluate the extent and degree to which this has gone on. If your child is guilty of retaliation be particularly mindful of this when you consider how to progress. Schools will more often than not be experienced in these kinds of issues and be able to resolve fairly quickly. But remember, most schools have a zero-tolerance policy to bullying and so if the victim has retaliated both the bullies and victim could be in for the same punishment. Be particularly cognisant of this if the retaliation verges on the boundary of what
    is permissible by law. Schools may have legal reporting obligations that could very quickly put your child in hot water with the police.
  • Explain they are not alone and that from now on, you will get through this together.

2. Increase your oversight

Much like an iceberg, if you have suspicions that cyber bullying is going on, it most likely runs much deeper than you may initially expect. Consider increasing the level of supervision you have of what your child is doing online and how people are interacting with them.

Once you know the specifics, it is much easier for yourselves as parents (or the professionals) to help put a stop to it. You can do this by using some parental software such as ‘Qustodio’. This will enable you to have sight of what they say or receive on social media, messaging, emailing, browsing or gaming, across all devices at any time of the day.

3. Keep a Diary

Keep a record of all cases of cyber bullying, ensuring that you screenshot and capture exactly what is said, when and by whom. Parental control software will do this for you.

4. Teach Your Child to Self-Manage

Ultimately fixing issues like cyber bullying will need to be a joint effort between child and parent. The problem cannot be fixed in full by the parent and if the bully senses this is the case (the child not able to stick up for themselves), the bullying may be exacerbated. Teach them how to manage cyber bullying so that they can stick up for themselves. The following can be a set of guiding principles to start;

  • No Reaction is the best reaction. Explain that bullies are being mean often because they are also being bullied elsewhere in their lives. Explain that they are looking for a reaction from their victim so by providing no reaction at all, you remove the oxygen they feed off. It is important here to not convey the message of “just ignore it”. We are throttling the cyber bully’s enjoyment by not reacting but we are certainly not ignoring it.
  • Block the Bully - when a horrible message is received, tell them not to reply (because this is exactly what the bully wants) and block them immediately across all channels of communication (phone calls, social media, WhatsApp, email, etc.).
  • Forward & Delete – ensure they are forwarding horrible messages to you (not required if you have parental software loaded on their devices). Ask them to delete them once they have forwarded them on because you don’t want them being reminded of them every time they log on.
  • Report – kids should be reporting each occurrence of cyber bullying whenever on line. Whether they are texting, emailing, on social media, gaming or whatever, often nowadays there is an option to report. The reporting capabilities of different organisations vary wildly but they are improving.
  • Set Privacy Settings – tightening up privacy settings can help limit the access cyber bullies have to your child’s online lives. See Privacy Settings of the specific websites/apps for more information on how to do this for each (as all will vary).

5. Speak to the School

In most cases parents are mortified when they find out their own child is a bully (online or otherwise). Do contact the bullies’ parents but only if they are already good friends of yours. If they’re not, refrain from going to them direct. Some parents can feel ‘ambushed’ so one tip is to use a school counsellor or head of year as the mediator. Hold the conversation at a neutral location like the school itself and use your bullying diary as a prop to discuss some real-life examples. Most cases finish here as the parents deal with the behaviour. However, on occasion, the parents are no better than their offspring – if this is the case, continue to step 6 below.

6. Contact Your ISP

Where the bullies’ parents and / or school have not been able to help, contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This is the company that provides your internet connection, such as Virgin Media or BT (in the UK). ISPs prohibit cyberbullying and online harassment performed through the use of their services. Often if you’re living in the same area as the cyber bully, you’ll likely have the same ISP. Where this is the case, the ISP will notify them of the report and threaten to suspend or cancel their account. If your kids are receiving nasty messages on their phone, the same applies. Follow the same process for the phone service provider, e.g. EE, Vodafone, T-Mobile (in the UK).

7. Contact Law Enforcement

Where neither the parents, school or ISP have been able to help, you can report it to the police. Police will be particularly interested in cases where any of the following applies:

  • Threats of physical harm have been made.
  • Sexually explicit media (photos, videos, audio, etc.) of someone under the age of 18 have been shared.
  • Where the cyber bullying has progressed to stalking. This doesn’t have to be physical stalking - cyber stalking is done online by anyone who is persistently following or communicating in a harassing manner which makes the victim fear for their safety.
  • Hacking into someone else's computer or creating a false social networking page in another person’s name.

Some charities and non-profit organisations also provide some fantastic resources to help those experiencing cyber bullying. Checkout the resources below if you or your kid is going through it;

> Internet Matters
> Childnet
> BullyingUK

I hope this is helpful. If you have any specific questions or a scenario you want to ask other parents about, drop in to our online community at www.simplecyberlife.com/forums where you can ask me or other parents anything you wish 🙂


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