I am doing a phone-in tomorrow on ITV ‘This Morning’ on bullying.
Technology means that bullying is no longer limited to school playgrounds, street corners, or on the bus home. Cyberbullying can occur anywhere, even at home, via email, texts, mobile phones, and social media websites 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with potentially hundreds of people involved.
For those who suffer cyberbullying, the effects can be devastating, leaving children feeling hurt, humiliated, angry, depressed, or even suicidal. But no type of bullying should ever be tolerated.
These tips taken from Help Guide can help you protect yourself or your child online and deal with the growing problem of cyberbullying.
If you or a loved one is currently the victim of cyberbullying, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. As many of one third of teenagers have suffered from cyberbullying at some time in their lives.
How cyberbullying harms
The methods kids and teens use to cyberbully can be as varied and imaginative as the technology they have access to. It ranges from sending threatening or taunting messages via email, text, or IM to breaking into your email account or stealing your online identity to hurt and humiliate you. Some cyberbullies may even create a website or social media page to target you.
Boys tend to bully by “sexting” (sending messages of a sexual nature) or with messages that threaten physical harm. Girls, on the other hand, more commonly cyberbully by spreading lies and rumours, exposing your secrets.
Any type of bullying can make you feel hurt, angry, helpless, isolated, even suicidal, or lead to problems such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. In many cases, cyberbullying can be even more painful than face-to-face bullying.
If you are targeted by cyberbullies, it’s important not to respond to any messages or posts written about you, no matter how hurtful or untrue. Responding will only make the situation worse and provoking a reaction from you is exactly what the cyberbullies want, so don’t give them the satisfaction.
It’s also very important that you don’t seek revenge on a cyberbully by becoming a cyberbully yourself. Again, it will only make the problem worse and could result in serious legal consequences for you. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.
Instead, respond to cyberbullying by:
Saving the evidence of the cyberbullying, keep abusive text messages or a screenshot of a webpage, for example, and then report them to a trusted adult, such as a family member, teacher, or school counsellor. If you don’t report incidents, the cyberbully will often become more aggressive.
Reporting threats of harm and inappropriate sexual messages to the police. In many cases, the cyberbully’s actions can be prosecuted by law.
Being relentless. Cyberbullying is rarely limited to one or two incidents. It’s far more likely to be a sustained attack on you over a period of time. So, like the cyberbully, you may have to be relentless and keep reporting each and every bullying incident until it stops. There is no reason for you to ever put up with cyberbullying.
Preventing communication from the cyberbully, by blocking their email address, mobile phone number, and deleting them from social media contacts. Report their activities to their internet service provider (ISP) or to any social media or other web sites they use to target you. The cyberbully’s actions may constitute a violation of the website’s terms of service or, depending on the laws in your area, may even warrant criminal charges.
If you are being cyberbullied, remember:
Don’t blame yourself. It is not your fault. No matter what a cyberbully says or does, you should not be ashamed of who you are or what you feel. The cyberbully is the person with the problem, not you.
Try to view cyberbullying from a different perspective. The cyberbully is an unhappy, frustrated person who wants to have control over your feelings so that you feel as badly as they do. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t make a cyberbullying incident worse by dwelling on it or reading the message over and over. Instead, delete any cyberbullying messages and focus on positive experiences. There are many wonderful things about you so be proud of who you are.
Get help. Talk to a parent, teacher, counsellor, or other trusted adult. Seeing a counsellor does not mean there is something wrong with you.
Learn to deal with stress. Finding ways to relieve stress can make you more resilient so you won’t feel overwhelmed by cyberbullying. Exercise, meditation, positive self-talk, muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises are all good ways to manage the stress from cyberbullying.
Spend time doing things you enjoy. The more time you spend with activities that bring you pleasure—sports, hobbies, hanging out with friends who don’t participate in cyberbullying, for example—the less significance cyberbullying will have on your life.
Tips for parents and teachers to stop cyberbullying.
No matter how much pain it causes, kids are often reluctant to tell you or their teachers about cyberbullying because they fear that doing so may result in losing their computer or mobile phone privileges. While you should always monitor your child’s use of technology, it’s important not to threaten to withdraw access or otherwise punish a child who’s been the victim of cyberbullying.
Spot the warning signs of cyberbullying
Your child may be the victim of cyberbullying if he or she:
- Becomes sad, angry, or distressed during or after using the Internet or mobile phone.
- Appears anxious when receiving a text, WhatsApp, Snapchat or email.
- Avoids discussions or is secretive about their computer or mobile phone activities.
- Withdraws from family, friends, and activities they previously enjoyed.
- Suffers an unexplained drop in grades.
- Refuses to go to school or to specific classes, or avoids group activities.
- Shows changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, appetite, or shows signs of depression or anxiety.
Prevent cyberbullying before it starts.
To stay safe with technology, teach your kids to:
- Refuse to pass along cyberbullying messages.
- Tell their friends to stop cyberbullying.
- Block communication with cyberbullies; delete messages without reading them.
- Never post or share their personal information online (including full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number, or Social Security number) or their friends’ personal information.
- Never share their Internet passwords with anyone, except you.
- Talk to you about their life online.
- Not put anything online that they wouldn’t want their classmates to see, even in email.
- Not send messages when they’re angry or upset.
- Always be as polite online as they are in person.
Source: National Crime Prevention Council
Monitor your child’s technology use
Regardless of how much your child resents it, you can only protect him or her by monitoring what they do online.
- Keep the computer in a busy area of your house so you can easily monitor its use, rather than allowing your child use a laptop or tablet in his or her bedroom, for example.
- Limit data access to your child’s smart phone if he or she uses it to surf the web. Some wireless providers allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours.
- Set up filters on your child’s computer. Tracking software can block inappropriate web content and help you check up on your child’s online activities.
- Insist on knowing your child’s passwords and learn the common acronyms kids use online and in text messages.
- Know who your child communicates with online. Go over your child’s address book and instant messenger “friends list” with them. Ask who each person is and how your child knows them.
- Encourage your child to tell you or another trusted adult if they receive threatening messages or are otherwise targeted by cyberbullies, while reassuring them that doing so will not result in their loss of computer or mobile phone privileges.
- Deal with incidents of cyberbullying
- Don’t reply to any incidents of cyberbullying but do save and document the threats (harassing messages, sexually explicit pictures, or threatening texts, for example) and report them to the police. Seek appropriate legal advice.
- Report incidents of cyberbullying to the ISP, the mobile phone company, and to any web site used in the cyberbullying.
- Block the cyberbully’s email address or mobile phone number, or change your child’s email address or phone number.
- If you are able to identify the cyberbully, you could contact his or her parents or notify your child’s school if the cyberbully is also a student there. Many schools have established protocols for handling cyberbullying but check with your child first as he or she may prefer to resolve the problem privately.
If your child is a cyberbully
It can be difficult for any parent to learn that their child is bullying others but it’s important to take steps to end the negative behaviour before it has serious and long-term consequences for your child.
If your child has responded to being cyberbullied by employing their own cyberbullying tactics, you can help your child find better ways to deal with the problem. If your child has trouble managing strong emotions such as anger, hurt, or frustration, talk to a therapist or counsellor about helping your child learn to cope with these feelings in a healthy way.
Bullying is often a learned behaviour.
Some cyberbullies can learn aggressive behaviour from their experiences at home, so it’s important to set a good example with your own Internet and messaging habits. As a parent, you may be setting a bad example for your kids by smacking or otherwise striking them, verbally or physically abusing your partner, or by displaying bullying behaviour such as:
Sending or forwarding abusive emails or text messages that target coworkers or acquaintances.
Communicating with people online in ways that you wouldn’t do face-to-face.
Abusing your child’s sports coach, umpires and referees, or members of the opposing team.
Swearing at other drivers on the road.
Humiliating a waitress, shop assistant, or cab driver who makes a mistake.
Talking negatively or writing abuse messages about other students, parents, or teachers so that your child thinks it’s acceptable to use verbal abuse or cyberbullying to intimidate others.
Tips for parents dealing with a cyberbullying child
Educate your child about cyberbullying. Your child may not understand how hurtful and damaging their behaviour can be. Foster empathy and awareness by encouraging your child to look at their actions from the victim’s perspective. Remind your child that cyberbullying can have very serious legal consequences.
Manage stress. Teach your child positive ways to manage stress. Your child’s cyberbullying may be an attempt at relieving stress. Or your own stress, anxiety, or worry may be creating an unstable home environment. Exercise, spending time in nature, or playing with a pet are great ways for both kids and adults to let off steam and relieve stress.
Set limits with technology. Let your child know you’ll be monitoring his or her use of computers, tablets, smartphones, email, and text messaging. If necessary, remove access to technology until their behaviour improves.
Establish consistent rules of behaviour. Make sure your child understands your rules and the punishment for breaking them. Children may not think they need discipline, but a lack of boundaries sends a signal that the child is unworthy of the parents’ time, care, and attention.
Reference: Taken from HELPGUIDE.ORG Trusted guide to mental, emotional & social health.