October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Click StopBullying.Gov to read more about this. While “traditional” bullying continues to occur on playgrounds and other physical spaces, it is virtual or cyberbullying that is still new territory for parents. Cyberbullying is defined as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (as a student) often done anonymously” by Merriam-Webster. I shudder to even think about how this might evolve over the years as my kids grow up.
In honor of month long awareness programs that have been held in various capacities around the world, I would like to present a guest post on ‘Ways to Identify Cyberbullying’ by Eric Bridges of KidsFitMatters, a website that provides resources for parents regarding fitness for kids (categorized by age groups), nutrition, recipes, and so on. Do go check it out if you have a few minutes. Over to Eric:
Things have changed a lot in the past two decades. Technology has bridged gaps and communication to be instantaneous which has created an amazing virtual ecosystem across the world. Unfortunately, with these advances there comes new challenges for kids growing up in this world. One of those challenges is now dealing with online bullying and trying to fix it. The first step? Being able to identify the issue.
How Do I Monitor My Child’s Online Activity?
We know that that there are millions of different social networks out there that kids can join without us even knowing. Here are a few ways to keep a pulse on what your kid is doing online:
- Have A Mutual Understanding. Have an agreement with your child that if they join any kind of social network it first needs to be approved by you. There can be set punishment if a profile is found and you weren’t informed beforehand such as phones or computers being taken away. If you keep the list of social networks that they’re on, it will be easier for you to keep a closer eye out for online bullying.
- Keep Up With New Technology and Websites. As kids, we always remember having to help our parents with the VCR or other types of “new” technology. That shoe is on the other foot and parents today are challenged with new apps, websites, and technology that can allow for multiple communication media. Ignoring this new technology instead of becoming familiar with it will put you at a serious disadvantage of knowing your child’s online activity (let alone being able to identify bullying).
Taking some of these simple steps will help keep you in the loop with the online activity of your child and hopefully make identifying bullying easier.
Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied
Every kid will react to online bullying in their own way but here are a few signs for parents to help keep an eye out for signs of cyberbullying.
- Your child seems to have a sense of dread whenever a notification comes up on their phone. If they’re being cyberbullied, they will likely be attached to their phone or technology non-stop but seem nervous or apprehensive to check it when a notification pops up.
- You ask about their online activity and you get short answers. With the instantaneous world we live in, there is always new “news” coming out every minute in a child’s life. If you ask them about that and receive a one word answer of “nothing”, it could be sign you need to look into what is being said online.
- Weight loss or weight gain occurs without any reasoning. This is common for both online bullying and cyberbullying. Each child is different in how they respond to bullying and sometimes their food intake can be affected.
- Your child suddenly starts using their phone/computer/tablet a lot more than they did (or a lot less). While this could just be the normal attention span of a child, it can sometimes indicate their mood towards the online world. Any major shifts in the usage of their device might be an indicator of their feelings towards it.
- Decrease in positive thoughts about themselves. When you start to hear negative comments towards “the world” from your child, it might be a good time to check on their online activities.
As we said before, every child will handle cyberbullying in their own way. Don’t be afraid of technology and stay up to speed with what your child is doing. You likely wouldn’t allow them to go to some random home or building that you weren’t familiar with, which is how you should look at it every time they join a new social network. Identifying signs of bullying is the first step in fixing the issue.