Tips: How to protect your children from cyberbullying
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According to https://www.unicef.org/end-violence/how-to-stop-cyberbullying, cyberbullying is bullying with the use of digital technologies. It can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and cellphones. It is repeated behaviour, aimed at scaring, angering or shaming those who are targeted.
Dr Peter Raffalli, director of the Bullying and Cyberbullying Collaborative Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital, says: “There’s been a general uptick in cyberbullying for the past several years. And with schooling and so many other activities moved online, the numbers are likely to increase further.”
To already overburdened parents, this might feel like just one more thing to worry about during an already difficult year. For help, we turned to Dr Raffalli to answer some common questions and concerns about cyberbullying — and what parents can do to help prevent or stop it.
How can I tell if my child is being bullied online?
Raffalli says your child may not tell you they are being bullied. “Like many other victims of abuse, children don’t want to come forward, because they are afraid it will make it worse. So many children keep it to themselves.”
He says the most telling sign that your child is being bullied is any changes in behaviour that signals a shift in mood or anxiety. These might include:
- Lack of motivation for activities they normally like doing.
- Homework or grades dropping off.
- Changes to their sleep schedule or not being able to sleep.
“While these signs may also be the result of some other problem, I tell parents to at least consider bullying if you notice any of these changes,” says Raffalli.
What can I do if my child is being bullied?
“The first thing you can do is block the person who is bullying,” says Raffalli. If the abuse includes threats, sexually-charged comments, racist comments or profanity, you can also report their behaviour to the domain site. He says the main social media channels such as Twitter, TikTok and Instagram all have an email address where you can report abuse. For example, [email protected] or [email protected]
What else can I do to help my children?
Raffalli offers tips for trying to prevent cyberbullying:
- Try to help your child build resilience and self-esteem from an early age.
- If the school system doesn’t have a social-emotional curriculum, go through the parents and teachers association and try to advocate for this type of curriculum.
- Be proactive. “Warn your child that children might be mean online and it’s not okay. Let them know to tell you and that you don’t want to see them hurt.”
For bullying to stop, it needs to be identified and reported.