All parents and guardians want to ensure that their kids are safe – and yet statistics say that the majority of teenagers will experience cyberbullying. (Source: PewInternet.org)
Bullying isn’t limited to school grounds but can now take place on the online turf, where the effects of cyberbullying can potentially scar kids for live and sometimes even turn dangerous.
Here’s what you should know about cyberbullying, how it happens and how to keep kids safe.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is any form of harassment or destructive behavior (including stalking and derisive comments or messages) that takes place online. Sometimes the perpetrators are anonymous, random and located halfway across the world. This isn’t always the case. A cyberbully can also be someone that your child knows – and someone that knows them and their routine.
Psychologically, cyberbullying is damaging to anyone experiencing it and the effects can last for years. In extreme cases, cyberbullying has gone viral and resulted in thousands of perpetrators joining in to harass the subject. Sometimes bullying crosses over from online threats to offline action. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to curb cyberbullying early on and deal with the perpetrator or problem.
Step One is Seeing the Problem
The first step to fighting cyberbullying is recognizing the problem. Mean comments and attacks that happen in public are usually obvious. (Where you see these, you should ask your child about them – do they need you to step in yet?)
Comments that are sent through private messages are less obvious, but you’re likely to see changes in your child’s behavior. Where you suspect there might be a problem, ask. Cyberbullying can make children feel way out of their depth. When it becomes an issue, most children would be happy (and relieved) when a parent asks.
Most world jurisdictions have laws that apply to cyberbullying. Those that don’t will have laws that govern general harassment.
In the event where your child is being attacked or bullied, your first step is to approach an administrator (or “admin”) of the respective website. Most posts (and sometimes private messages) can be reported to an administrator, who can ban the offending commenter from the site.
Reported It to a system administrator and didn’t see any changes or behavior has gotten worse? Because of the laws in most countries applying to harassment, severe cases (where obvious threats are being made) allows for approaching the police. A case of cyber harassment or harassment can also be opened – and a restraining order (called a “protection order” in some countries and jurisdictions) might be able to help bring the commenter to task.
Dealing with After-Effects of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can have a lot of effects that can last for years after the actual bullying event. When your child has undergone any kind of traumatic event, learning coping skills is the best way to move forward. Where cyberbullying was involved, remember to teach your kids more about cybersecurity and how to protect their accounts (for example, by setting most things to private instead of publicly available).
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