As a parent, I often fear that my child is hiding something from me. The feeling is not without reason. I can feel when my child is distressed, even though he wouldn’t say a thing to me. Call it a “mommy instinct,” but a mother can sense when something’s not right.
A while ago, I noticed that my son was extremely withdrawn. For hours on end, he would stay in his room. It disturbed me a lot. Later, through his teacher, I found out that a kid was bullying him at school. When I asked my son about this, he showed me the texts that the kid was sending him. According to him, he thought “I wouldn’t understand him,” so he decided to stay quiet about that. Naturally, I was shocked, and my emotions were skyrocketing. But, I quickly realized that this was exactly why my son did not share his thoughts with me beforehand. Since this was the first time I experienced what a cyberbully could do, I was not prepared for it at all!
Many parents, including me, are not familiar with the intensity of child bullying. The scary fact is that almost 59% of teens in the US have experienced some form of cyberbullying. Given such high statistics related to cyberbullying, parents need to realize that it is a real issue that the Gen Z face.
Cyberbullying is new the bullying
Because of technology, bullying has taken another form: cyberbullying. It involves using digital means to hurt or insult someone. Parents now have to deal with a bully who could hurt your child at any time of the day. A cyberbully may be spread rumors about the victim or send them hateful messages. Moreover, cyberbullying is often carried out anonymously where you’re not always aware of the assailant. It makes it difficult to identify who the bully is in real life. Hence, it is distressing for a child to understand why they are being victimized and by whom.
Signs that your child is a victim of cyberbullying
I don’t have a professional validation for what I am about to say net but, trust me, I am a mother and since I found out about my child getting bullied, I reached out for help. I am just sharing what I was told to do in that situation.
Before you can help your child deal with a cyberbully, you need to be sure that your child is the victim. Emotional stress in children manifests unusual and withdrawn behavior. If you notice the following signs, your child is likely going through a lot of stress.
· Low self-esteem
One of the most evident signs of being a victim of bullying is low self-esteem. If you notice that your child is not their usual, cheerful, and confident self, there is something wrong. Other signs of low self-esteem would involve your child lacking the motivation to participate in activities that they enjoy.
· Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
If your child is not sharing their worries with you, they may outpour their emotions by doing self-harm. Because your child lacks proper guidance, they may have difficulty in processing the negative thoughts racing through their minds. If your child is self-harming themselves, they may try to hide scars. Notice if your child wears long-sleeved and high-necked shirts.
· Poor grades
The stress your child faces may affect their performance at school as well. Because a child is distracted, they may find it difficult to concentrate on school work. They may miss out on assignments and homework. Moreover, if the bully is in the same school, it may be the root cause of your child’s anxiety. Parents should be in contact with the teacher regarding the child’s performance.
· Easy to anger
A child may find it difficult to handle their emotions. Welling up those emotions may cause your child to have emotional outbursts. Moreover, they may become easily irritable and quick to anger at the slightest of provocations.
What should a parent do?
There are steps parents can take to avoid the trauma their child goes through alone.
· Create trust
Trust in any relationship is important. For a child to trust their parent in times of need is essential. Moreover, it makes a child feel a sense of security. To develop trust, parents must be involved in their child’s life. Many parents feel the need to take away a child’s privileges when a child makes a mistake. Taking away a child’s phone just because they are the victim discourages them from reaching out to you. Instead, talk to your child and help them process their feelings. If you intend on taking away their phone for their safety, let them know the reason for it.
· Be rational
The reason my son didn’t tell me about the cyberbully was that he wasn’t sure about my reaction. Being rational in a time like this is crucial. How you react affects your child. If you show temper or are completely indifferent, they probably wouldn’t approach you next time. If your child approaches you, listen to what they’re saying. Take steps that will help in resolving the situation. Save the messages sent by the bully. If you think it is appropriate, contact the parents of the bully and let them know what has transpired between your child and theirs.
· Contact the school
There is a chance that your child may know the bully personally, or the bully may go to the same school as your child. In such a case, contact your child’s teachers. If something happens, the school will notify you. It will also ensure your child’s safety.
· Monitor online activity
It is easier for a child to hide things from you if they are alone with their gadgets. If your child uses a computer or a laptop, place it in the lounge so that you can monitor their online activities. Apart from this, check your child’s phone regularly to find any suspicious activity. Since parents can't monitor their kids 24/7, cell phone monitoring apps such as Xnspy allow you to monitor your child’s phone from anywhere. Thus, you can monitor their activities remotely.
What should a kid do?
In addition to taking precautions, parents should talk to their children about dealing with a cyberbully.
· Identify a cyberbully
The most important thing is to identify when you are the victim of cyberbullying. Since children are not emotionally mature, it is often difficult for them to identify when they are the victim. Hence, parents should teach their child about identifying a cyberbully, the language they may use, and actions that may take.
· Notify the parents immediately
If a child receives a threatening message or the message has offensive undertones, they should immediately tell their parents, guardian, an older sibling, teacher, etc.
· Save the messages or take a screenshot
When a child receives a message from a cyberbully, take a screenshot as proof. Messages can be deleted from chats easily. It makes it difficult to report the crime.
· Do not reply
Replying to a cyberbully can escalate the situation quickly. A cyberbully may have the intention to provoke the child to react in a certain way. Hence, your child should avoid replying to a bully on social media or other platforms.
· Do not contact unknown people on social media
Many bullies hide behind fake profiles. Hence, adding an unknown person on social media should be avoided. Moreover, the child should avoid oversharing on social media. In addition to this, a parent’s responsibility is to teach the child about conducting themselves responsibly online. It involves avoiding posting hurtful, offensive, and mean comments on social media websites.
As my son grows up, all I want him to know is that I’ll always be there for him. No matter what life throws at him, I want my child to have the confidence to confide in me at all times. Cyberbullying is one obstacle that our children are facing. Parents need to stand by their child’s side and help them get through the growing-up phase. Most importantly, we need to prepare and equip our children to deal with whatever problems that life throws at them.