Cyberbullying During The Cyberlearning Era
Getting your child to open up to you can seem like trying to eat soup with a fork some days. Teenagers especially, tend to show their frustration with attitude and curt answers. Thankfully, it is easier to get our little ones to tell us what is bothering them most of the time. The tricky part is then sorting through the information they give you and deciding what, if anything, you as a parent need to do about it. Sometimes it’s as simple as giving them advice on how to handle a situation on their own. Other times much more is needed to resolve a situation. Building rapport at a young age can help as your child grows and matures. I am not a parenting expert by any means but having three children that require three very different methods of parenting gives me lots of “been there, done that” advice to offer to those of you who are at your wits end.
Most recently I have had to guide one of my children through cyberbullying. In an era where everything is done online, and children have access to apps, social platforms, and email, it is more important than ever to keep a close eye on our children’s online activities. I am incredibly grateful that I took the time to build a relationship with my child that has allowed for open lines of communication. Don’t get me wrong, they didn’t just walk right up to me and offer this information. No matter how good of a relationship you have with your child, they are still just children. They think they can figure things out on their own, or they are afraid that they will be in trouble if they have done something wrong, or that they may have provoked the person in some way. It took me observing, talking and lots of tears to get to the bottom of what was actually going on.
Over the past few weeks, I have noticed slight changes in behavior, negative responses to online learning, and one, more physical change, a sudden onset of panic attacks. While discussing these issues together, I made sure to pay close attention to body language, types of answers I was getting, and reactions to things being discussed. Knowing my child, it was evident that something more was going on then what was initially being offered. It is important that when you know there is more to the story that you don’t just brush it off and move on, because if I had done that, I would have never learned how unkind another child was being toward mine.
The turmoil that someone can cause in another’s life, can be devastating and have long term effects on one's mental and physical health. The effects of cyberbullying may vary from child to child and can range from depression, anxiety and academic changes to drug use, isolation and even suicide. According to StopBullying.gov, cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. It is possible for cyberbullying to cross the line into unlawful or criminal behavior, so it is important to document and report cyber bullying when it happens to ensure it is taken care of quickly.
If you find that your child has been the victim of cyberbullying, there are a few steps that you should take. Keep any evidence you have and record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, emails, and/or text messages and report cyberbullying to web and cell phone service providers. It is important that you or your child block the person that is cyberbullying, but do not respond to or forward any messages from that person. There may be some instances where schools and local law enforcement should be notified as well.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than listening to your child tell you about a bullying situation. Just remember to stay strong and poised for your child, assess the situation and act accordingly. There is no greater gift from God than His trust in us to raise a child, so lean on those around you for support and pray for his guidance through any crisis.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
For more information and links for reporting cyberbullying, visit StopBullying.gov.