24-hour news cycle and constant updates to Facebook and Instagram can feel
overwhelming to the most well-adjusted adult. How many times have you worried
too much about something you read or saw online? Now imagine if you are 14 and
are connected over far more social media platforms, have far more followers and
are at the mercy of comments by people whom you might not even know? This is
the life of the current teen. And in many cases, it’s relentless and stress
reducing at least and at worst deadly.
Helping children to navigate the waters as they transition from children to adolescents has never been an easy task. The pressure from peers, school, sports and home can have a huge impact on children even if the pressure is self-imposed. While being a teen has never been a cake walk, there are arguably more social pressure than ever, and that pressure can be relentless when it comes in the form of cyberbullying.
What makes Cyberbullying so unique – StopBullying.gov highlights the following three factors:
It is persistent, it is permanent, and it is hard to notice.
Because digital platforms offer 24 hours of access, you can never really get a break from the potential of being bullied. The permanent and public nature of online slander and comments contributes to a child’s negative feelings. In many cases it is impossible for teachers or parents to be aware or overhear what is being spread online which can make it very difficult to stop the behaviors before they get out of the control.
What can a parent do to help prevent their child from being a victim of cyberbullying or a perpetrator?
- Start with a conversation about cyberbullying. This should happen with children as young as 8 years old. Make sure that your child is aware of all the ways one can bully and be bullied and the consequences of cyberbullying. We highly recommend the Know bullying app which offers conversation starters and tips for parents.
- Continue the conversation. Just like the constant introduction of new apps on your child’s phone, there is a need to continually discuss cyberbullying with your children.
- Limit the amount of time that your children can spend on their phone and be aware of what apps they have on all of their digital devices. If you witness your child hiding their device when you come in the room, it is a good time to restart a conversation about bullying and of course take a look at their device.
- Establish a system of trust – you are the parent and have the right to know what is on your child’s phone, but you need to be open about this. If you sneak around you are only setting up a potential for dishonest behavior from your child down the road.
- Model positive digital device behavior – remember our children mimic us.
No parent knows all of the answers. If you are concerned that you might have a child who is involved in cyberbullying either as a victim, perpetrator or even witness, take it upon yourself to reach out to their school counselors, pediatrician and any mentors your child has to help you to curb the behavior before there are serious consequences.