Tackling Cyber Bullying Head On

The rise of social media over the last decade has resulted in our ability to send messages, photos, and videos across the globe with a click of a button. Despite the many perks of the instantaneous nature of our social networks, there is a downside. More and more members of this current generation are finding themselves victims of cyber bullying.

Unlike old-school playground bullying, cyber bullying is using electronic means of communication to bully another person. Unfortunately, cyber bullying is not a simple “mean text message”, it can actually take many nasty forms. Some of the main types of cyber bullying are:

Humiliation

Purposely posting photos or videos in which another person is made to feel embarrassed.

Harassment / Threats /Sexting

Sending mean and unwanted messages to people, threatening others with violence in “real life” or posting something that causes another person to feel uncomfortable, is cyber bullying. Sending inappropriate photos to unsuspecting victims is another form of harassment.Impersonation

This form of cyber bullying can sometimes happen without the victim even being aware. Impersonation happens when another person hacks into someone’s social networking account and pretends to be this person. They might choose to send inappropriate or embarrassing material to others or create public posts under their victim’s name. Fake profiles are also a form of impersonation and these can be difficult to tackle.

Exclusion

Also a form of social bullying, exclusion is intentionally leaving someone out. This could be out of a group message, a gaming site or any other online engagement.

Cyber bullying can often be more malicious than physical bullying as it follows children further than the school grounds and into their homes. Despite cyber bullying originating online, many victims find that the bullying ends up affecting their everyday lives. Young people may feel very anxious and depressed, as they cannot escape from the problem.

Unlike physical bullying though, cyber bullying is easier to hide, and many young victims do not like to speak up about their struggle. Part of this may be due to shame, in that children do not feel they can talk about their problems for worry of being judged, not being taken seriously, or even losing web privileges.

It is important to be able to spot signs of cyber bullying occurring in your child’s life. Low self-esteem and mental health problems (including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts) are just some of the effects of this cruel bullying. Skipping school or unwillingness to attend are key clues that something is not right. Isolating oneself from family and friends, and even the loss of contact with peers should not be dismissed.

So how do we deal with cyber bullying?

Make sure your child knows that they can talk to you. It is very important that a victim of cyber bullying can feel comfortable explaining the problem. There is no shame in asking for help. Keeping the issue to oneself will likely lead to an even bigger problem.Whilst it seems like the easier thing to do, retaliating to nasty messages is not the way to go. Fighting fire with fire will only increase the size of the flames. Instead, save the evidence. Make sure you save or screenshot proof of any hurtful or inappropriate messages.

Cyber bullying should not be dismissed, as problems can spiral well out of control. Parents can get in contact with their child’s school, as they may be unaware of the issue. If a public post needs to be taken down, try contacting the website on which it is posted. If no action is being taken, the police can be involved. Tracking anonymous messages is difficult for you, but the police are capable of finding the source.

It is important that your child’s online profile is secure. Many websites/apps have options to ensure that only accepted friends are able to view posted content. Blocking or deleting people who are causing trouble is also possible.

Here are some important things your child should know about internet safety.

Do NOT share personal information: From a very early age, parents warn their children not to share personal information with strangers such as phone numbers or a home address. When on the Internet, these rules still apply. Do NOT post contact details online.Never meet someone alone: If somebody is asking to meet up, never go alone. Agree only on a public setting and always make sure that a parent/trusted adult is around. If the person you are supposed to be meeting is not happy with that arrangement, it is likely they are not who they say they are.

Tell an adult if you feel uncomfortable: If someone is sending you messages or photos that make you feel uncomfortable it is vital that you speak up straight away.

Whilst the easiest solution for some parents is to just switch off a device, this can sometimes have a negative effect/impact on a child. By telling them to completely delete an account or not allowing anytime online, a child is likely to feel even more isolated, and actually has not directly tackled the issue.

Avoiding the internet completely is not really a solution either to the problem of cyber bullying, but providing a safe home environment where a child can talk about any issues and feel supported certainly helps!

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