Cyberbullying – A Serious Online Threat to Children
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
Bullying is an old behavior that continues to be an issue for kids and teenagers. It’s an often occurring case of physical intimidation and sensitive remarks that teachers and parents try to address at every turn. Bullying has long-term effects on the mental and physical wellbeing of a child. The internet – social media in particular – has allowed people to connect with friends or make new ones from around the world. The opportunity to build new and meaningful relationships can often take a dark turn, which can haunt a person for a long time.
The term Cyberbullying keeps popping up. Because like bullying, in reality, cyberbullying is equally dangerous – more, if we consider that information flies fast on the internet. Once something is on the internet, it stays there.
Cyberbullying is a Serious Matter
Bullying is the act of verbally abusing, making derogatory remarks, threatening, intimidating, or anything that is hurtful to someone. The term cyber refers to the use of digital equipment and the internet as a means of communication to post messages insensitive in nature to another person.
There was a time when bullying was limited to the confines of the school hallway, the classroom after a session, the school bathroom, or the playground, but times have changed. With the proliferation of smartphones and the advancements in cellular technologies and broadband speeds, our lives have become digitally connected. Nearly everyone today has at least one social media account. It is challenging for parents to be vigilant of what websites and forums their children visit, and what people they interact with. Parental controls have allowed for strict moderation and limitations on apps, but teenagers are legal of age to use social media without supervision.
What makes cyberbullying so dangerous is the safety it provides to bullies. It does not take much to setup a fake account and leak private information or post hurtful comments. Unlike bullying in real life where it can have serious repercussions, cyberbullying is much more challenging to control.
How Cyberbullying Threatens the Safety of Children
Bullies often have little to no remorse or understand the gravity of their actions. Cyberbullies can post comments about a person’s gender, race, ethnicity, or sexuality. Many people don’t disclose certain details about themselves due to the fear of being made fun of online, and that’s what cyberbullies use to get back those people. Information that you may have confided in someone may potentially make its way to the grapevine, leading to unintended situations.
Fake accounts can be created in someone’s name in order to defame or post personal texts or photos. It has dire consequences on a person’s mental health. Due to the nature of such situations, it becomes very difficult for children and teenagers to speak about it. The result is a battle that they have to fight alone.
Cyberstalking is another serious issue that parents must be vigilant about. Pedophilliacs prey on unsuspecting targets and lure them into establishing trust. As a new user on the internet, your child may not have sufficient knowledge to identify the situation. It is you – the parent – that must keep a close eye on the child’s social media account – inbox, friends, communities.
Constant humiliation in public or among friends can lower one’s self-esteem. It directly affects mood and the ability to perform at best in areas such as education.
How to Tell if Your Child is Being Bullied
There are some clear signs when a person suffers from mental stress, which also manifests in physical stress at some point.
Notice if the child has been looking stressed lately. Mental stress can cause a lack of sleep, lack of hunger, and the ability to communicate cohesively. They may feel agitated over small questions or avoid interactions. These are enough signs that something is troubling the person from within. Having an open discussion about any recent events will help you towards learning if the child has been bullied online. There is no one better at knowing the child than you, so the best approach is really up to you. It may take a while before the child opens up.
If you have access to the child’s social media account, then look for recent posts by friends or check the inbox.
It’s also equally important to know that your child is not a cyberbully. It’s harder to know, but if you run into some message online posted by the child, or there is a complaint, you must act accordingly. Bullies
If you have been bullied online, then the first thing you need to do is tell the bully to stop. Tell your parent if it proceeds beyond that point. Involving an adult in the matter is something you must do. Keep the messages stored as evidence.
As a parent, you can consult local cyber laws for provisions for cyberbullying. If the child has been threatened online or sent unsolicited messages sexual in nature, or had personal photos leaked, then cyber laws will help you track down the guilty to justice. In the United States, laws differ from state to state. Some states mandate schools to set up policies to address bullying instead.
As your child grows up to explore the internet, there should be educated on the various threats that they may face online. Children who are able to identify bullying and stalking are more likely to report it back to the parent. The safety of your child online should be paramount.