One disadvantage of more and more kids being online, and having their own smart devices, is the rise of cyberbullying. Picking on other kids is no longer something that’s restricted to the playground or classroom. Bullies can now use social media and messaging apps to exclude and persecute kids they perceive as somehow different.
The impact of cyberbullying is just like that of ‘normal’ bullying – it can result in changes in behaviour and attitudes, and once friendly and outgoing kids can become withdrawn or moody. They often blame themselves for the bullying and feel that they somehow ‘deserve’ this treatment – which, of course, they don’t. Frequently they don’t draw on the support they could get from their peers and families.
Cyberbullying has a long reach in that time and place becomes irrelevant and can find you anywhere and at any time. As with any bullying, it’s often the case that the bullies themselves also need help for issues in their own lives.
Here are some things to look out for which may indicate that your child is being cyberbullied:
Changes in behaviour
They may become moody or subdued, lose their appetite or battle to sleep. It’s possible that they may be reluctant to leave the house, or lose interest in things they normally really enjoy.
Changes in online behaviour
Your child may suddenly stop going online, or using certain apps. Alternatively, they may start spending a lot more time online, checking and rechecking messages and emails. Also, they may ask you for help in blocking accounts or deleting messages that they’ve been receiving.
They’ve got mail
You might notice a sudden profusion of alerts from your child’s device as they suddenly start getting lots of new messages. If you spot this, it’s time to check their accounts – some of these new messages may be from cyberbullies.
They get invited to fewer gatherings or social events
Chatrooms and WhatsApp groups are a great way of making sure everyone gets a message – but in the wrong hands they are also a powerful way to exclude another child, and make sure that they know they have been excluded.
If your child becomes very reluctant to let you see their accounts and messages, or starts avoiding using their device in front of you and becomes more secretive about what they are doing online, this could be a red flag for a number of things, including cyberbullying. It’s time to insist on that password and have an open, honest, non-judgemental conversation about what’s going on.