Cyberbullying is “verbal” harassment done to individuals via an electronic medium such as social media platforms, phone calls or text messaging. Similar to face-to-face verbal and physical bullying, this can have adverse effects on the victim of the attack. There has been cases of children committing suicide due to cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying may happen in many ways, such as:

  1. Insults or deeming comments sent via text message.
  2. Posting of insults, demeaning photos or comments on one’s social media page.
  3. Sharing of embarrassing photos of someone over social media.
  4. Spreading of rumours about an individual on social media.
  5. Sending insulting of demeaning images or comments via email.

Parents should always be on the lookout for changes in their children’s behaviour as this is the first sign of trouble. Keeping the lines of communication open as well as some monitoring of their online activity are measures which can help a parent identify if their child is being bullied before it becomes too late.

Some of the common signs that a child is being cyberbullied includes:

  1. A child seeming upset, angry or depressed after a call, text or being on the internet.
  2. A child suddenly acting out or being aggressive.
  3. A child withdrawing from society and activities they used to enjoy.
  4. A child suddenly spending more or less time on the internet.
  5. A child wanting to suddenly change their phone number or shut down their account.
  6. You noticed your child has blocked certain users from their account or numbers on their phone.
  7. The opening of several accounts online in your child’s name.

Parents should be ready to intervene should they suspect their child is being bullied in any way before it gets out of hand.

Approach the matter calmly and delicately so as to show your child that you only have their best interest at heart making them more willing to talk about the matter.

It is also important for parents to have open discussions with their children on how to respond to cyberbullying and bullying in general regardless of whether or not it has happened. This will prepare them on how to tackle the same should it happen. A few key things to inform your child is that:

  1. They should not respond to the bully. Don’t react to the post, texts or calls in any way as this will only fuel the bully and make them want to continue.
  2. They should maintain evidence of the bullying should legal action be required. This includes the date, time and details, a screen shot can also help with this.
  3. They should avoid sharing photos, or details about themselves which could be incriminating. These are details such as personal secrets, sensitive photos, their contact details and location. Before each post, they should think through and ask if it can come back to affect them in future.
  4. They should only accept friend invitations to social media platforms from people they know personally.
  5. Most importantly, they should inform you of any cases (no matter how small) of bullying or harassment the encounter whether online, via a phone call, text or face to face.

Have you ever had to deal with a cyberbully? How did you go about it.

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