Online bullying is at an all-time high. Almost half of all children surveyed report being bullied online. With it being so prevalent, the best way you can protect your child is to educate yourself on the signs of online abuse and how to deal with it.
Signs of Online Bullying
First, let’s look at a few signs, that could lead you to suspect that your child is being bullied online. It’s important to keep open communication with your child so that you can notice differences in their behaviour, that might only be subtle in nature.
- They Tell You – Most kids do not tell their parents if they are being bullied, either online or in person, but some do. Don’t dismiss their concerns if they tell you about it. Instead, be proactive in helping them end it.
- They Stop Using Their Device – Some kids react by not wanting to play games, go online, or even use their smartphones due to the bullying.
- They Try to Hide Their Device From You – Sometimes kids will protect their devices and become more secretive, instead of not using them. They will hide messages they don’t want you to see. They may even accuse you of invading their privacy if they think you’re trying to look.
- They Seem Nervous or Jumpy – Often if the bullying is happening from a stranger, kids are likely to be scared of that person and start acting jumpy. They might begin double-checking house security and other strange behaviours like that.
- They Seem Depressed and Withdrawn – Anytime your child’s behaviour changes and they act differently than usual (such as being depressed and withdrawn when they usually are not), this is a sign that something is not right. They lose interest and motivation to do things they normally enjoy.
- They Lose Interest in School – When someone is being bullied, even if it’s online, it’s still often by students that they must see every day. If it is, they may start not wanting to go or be around their peers.
- They Make Comments That Disturb You – Comments like “I have no friends”, “Everyone hates me” or “I’m dumb” and so forth are signs that someone may be telling your child something that is making them feel isolated and alone.
- They May Self-Harm – Sadly, self-harm can happen in extreme cases. Children sometimes turn their torment and frustrations on themselves. You may notice scars on your child’s arms or legs. This must be dealt with in a very sensitive way to avoid making matters worse and you’re probably best advised to seek professional help, at this stage.
Now that we’ve highlighted several of the behaviours that might signal online bullying, it’s time to decide what to do about it.
What to Do about Online Abuse
Dealing with online abuse is not that much different from dealing with offline abuse. However, you do have technology that you can use to control the situation better than in person. Keep in mind that a lot of online abuse does trickle down to the real world.
- Take Screen Shots – When you see the evidence, take screenshots of it so that you have a record of it. You can use software that is already on your computer for this. If you’re not sure how to take screenshots on your device, check the user manual or search online for how to do it.
- Report and Block the Person – Teach your child not to respond to any form of bullying. Ask them to just block the person responsible and report them right away using available tools on the platform. If the bullying reaches criminal behaviour, such as threatening death or harm, report it to the police immediately.
- Change Passwords – You never know what else is happening with an online bully, especially if you don’t know who they are in real life. Take this time to change all passwords. Teach your child how to make secure passwords. If you can, set up two-step authentication.
- Check Security Settings – You may want to check your security settings so that you know what others can see about your child’s information. You don’t want everyone to have their location and phone number or other identifying details.
- Delete All Messages – Keep in mind that if the messages are criminal in nature, you may wish to keep them as evidence. If you aren’t going to report it to the police, take a screenshot and keep it. Then delete all the messages so your child doesn’t have to keep seeing them.
- Talk About Not Retaliating – One of the fastest ways to shut down an online bully is simply the report and block feature. It doesn’t help to engage with an abuser at all. There is unlikely to be helpful because that’s what they normally want you to do.
The good thing is that more online communities are taking online bullying seriously, including gaming communities. They want to put a stop to it so that more people can enjoy playing games and participating in online activities. You can help by talking to your child about all forms of bullying. Let them know what it is, how to prevent it and how to report it if it happens. Educating them in this way should lead to a more confident and resilient child in dealing with these issues.