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Cyber Bullying is Dangerous: What Parents Need to Know

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.

Cyber bullying is dangerous. Parents should know signs of cyber bullying and how to protect their childMany 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  • A visible change in personality, behavior or mood: the child seems withdrawn, sad, anxious, or agitated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.

To be a guest author on the Your Mental Health Blog, go here.

6 thoughts on “Cyber Bullying is Dangerous: What Parents Need to Know”

  1. With today’s modern technology, bullying is lots worse than in my day but outcomes very similiar! Emotional abuse or mental and physical abuse still same!!! Took seven long months in hospital to even start getting over high school abuse! Plus major breakdown and separation from reality! Doctors all said @time caused by ignorant people @school!!! Who have no consideration for anyone!!!

  2. Girls are typically more catty and vicious when it comes to spreading gossip and bullying in general. Girls aim to hurt, and tend to hold on to even minor grievances and grudges. Boys on the other hand tend to brush things off and prefer to just avoid or ignore people they don’t like. Is the same type of scenario true for cyberbullying, or do boys use the internet as a forum to express their anger towards others? Are there any statistics as to whom is more likely to be a victim, boys or girls? Amanda Todd comes to mind, and it seems to me that most of her tormentors were girls, both online and at school.

  3. When I was in high school, we learned that people use insults and put downs because they feel bad about themselves and it’s easier to bring others down, than try to pull themselves up to that level. I think this type of behaviour often carries into adulthood, as we have a tendency to be critical of teachers, relatives, co-workers, friends, even the girl who serves us at the coffee shop. It’s no wonder cyberbullying is so out of control. As a society, we’ve made picking on others, ridiculing and scoffing not just acceptable, but part of the behaviour we are teaching our kids. We can’t just blame the internet, we all need to take responsibility for the things we say and how we act, both online and off.

  4. Cyber bullying has gone so far. It’s really true that it could lead to emotional depression to all victims. I just can’t imagine its effect to my children. I have some friends murmuring about how to control their kids or how to monitor their children’s account so that they will know if the kids are being harassed. So before it could happen to my kids I researched the net for a solution. Luckily I found this service which you can monitor your kid’s account without invading their privacy. It is called pgguard. You can google it also so that you will know its services. I told my friends already and they are using it. We, parents should act to protect our children. And this kind of harassment is just equivalent to physical bullying; it may lead to suicide also.

  5. Very good advice for what is sadly, a rapidly growing problem. The sense of bravado that young people get when spewing comments on social networks seems to help them push the envelope. Many of these cyber bullies are pleasant, well mannered kids when met in person, but the persona they develop on the internet is drastically different. Online or in person, words hurt. I’m curious though, if there are any indicators that your child is the cyber-bully? Is there any way to prevent kids from becoming the antagonist?

    1. It’s a very good question, Heather Dawn, and it is also a hard one to answer. There is a lot of material on the internet on how parents can recognize that their child is a bully. Yet, cyber bullies are very different from traditional bullies because the digital medium doesn’t require direct contact with a victim. The common attributes of traditional bullies and cyber bullies are inner anger, aggressiveness, impulsivity, competiveness, superiority or inferiority complex and strong desire for power, poor social sensitivity. Yet, a cyber bully could be a quiet and nerdy kid who feels aggrieved and tries to get back at somebody who offended her verbally or physically. I found that the best approach is to have a conversation with your child about somebody who has been cyber bullied and to discuss victim’s feelings and consequences for the bully and the bullied. Based on your child’s reactions, you can judge how likely she is to become a cyber bully. It is also the best preventive measure.

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