Although cyber bullying is not seen by many parents as being as serious as face-to-face bullying, it can be more dangerous as it creates the possibility of a wide-spread and more severe attack on an individual. The effect of bullying can be devastating and cyber bullying can result in peer group exclusion, victimization, and public humiliation of a child or adolescent.
Many parents have already realized that banning technology does not work: it has become a part of life and we need to learn and teach our children to deal with it. The best thing parents can do to protect their child from cyber bullying is to be informed about the potential dangers, to be closely tuned in to their kids, and to take preventive measures.
Cyber Bullying Signs
Most children will not tell their parents that they are being bullied out of fear that their parents will take away the technology. Because of this, it is up to parents to keep their eyes open for the telltale signs of bullying:
- A changed attitude towards technology: the child is either hesitant to go online or spends longer hours at the computer
- The child seems upset after using the computer or cell phone
- Nervousness when receiving texts, e-mails, or instant messages
- The child hides or clears the computer screen or closes his cell phone when you enter
- Withdrawal from friends
- The child falls behind in his schoolwork
- Fear of going to school or to social events (birthdays, school trips, outings)
- A visible change in personality, behavior or mood: the child seems withdrawn, sad, anxious, or agitated
- A change in sleep pattern and appetite
- Aggressive behavior
- A sudden change of friends
Cyber Bullying Prevention Tips
It is very important to do fun activities and interact with your child in a relaxed, pleasurable manner. This will create trust and allow you to notice any emotional changes in the child. Talk to your children about cyber bullying and assure them that they will not be punished if they share any information with you regarding inappropriate use of technology, whether it concerns them or someone else. Explain the dangers of posting personal information such as addresses, phone numbers, photos and videos. Some guidelines to prevent bullying can be printed and taped to the wall or desk in your child’s room:
- Be careful with your online connections. Only add people you know to buddy lists, social networking profiles and blogs.
- Avoid public chat rooms that do not have some sort of security in place.
- Use your best judgement with the personal information and images you publish online. Exposing yourself makes you vulnerable and an easy target for cyber bullies.
- Do not give your mobile number or e-mail address out to people who are not your friends.
How to Deal With Cyber Bullies
Use the following simple tips if you feel that you are being bullied.
- Tell someone what is happening. Talk to your teacher, guidance counselor, and your parents. Do not face it alone.
- Use blocking features. If you start getting bullied, block the bully, or inform the site administrator of what is happening, so that they can remove the person’s profile.
- Adjust your security settings. This will make it more difficult for them to bully you.
- Threaten action. Warn the person that you will inform the police if they do not stop. Save the bullying messages as a proof of their activity. Report them if this does not help.
(Here are additional things you can do if you are being bullied.)
It is important for parents to take preventive measures. It is a good idea to install protective software on your child’s computer, monitor their internet activity and learn to understand net lingo.
This article was written by:
Dr. Tali Shenfield holds PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto. She is a member of the Canadian Psychological Association, the College of Psychologists of Ontario, and the Canadian Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. Dr. Shenfield is a Clinical Director of Richmond Hill Psychology Center.
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