Cyberbullying is by no means a new phenomenon; in fact, the term was added to the Oxford Dictionary back in 2011. However, as technology permeates almost every facet of our lives, the threat of digital abuse is becoming more and more prevalent. It is increasingly common for schoolchildren to own smartphones, which often go hand-in-hand with social media accounts. This hyper-connectivity combined with the anonymity that the internet affords means that kids are increasingly at risk of cyber-abuse.
Online harassment is continually reported to be on the rise, and one in three parents worldwide report knowing a child in their community who has been cyberbullied. Cyberbullying can be even more damaging than in-person bullying and can affect victims long into their adulthood. That said, it is not always easy to distinguish between common childhood or teenage issues and potential signals that your child is being cyberbullied. To help, we have taken a look at several common warning signs that might indicate that your child is being targeted by a cyberbully.
Unexplained physical changes
The first thing to look out for is noticeable physical changes. While this isn’t a sure-fire sign of cyberbullying, if your child has suddenly lost weight or appetite, has trouble sleeping during the night, or looks stressed out in the morning, it is worth having a conversation about whether everything is okay.
Similarly, if your child is regularly pretending to be ill to avoid going to school, this could also be an indicator of a problem. Almost every child uses excuses to get out of school from time to time, but if it is becoming a habit, or if time off becomes long, there might be a more serious issue at hand, such as the fear of a conflict with a bully.
Keep an eye out for noticeable nervousness, sudden mood swings and snappy answers to your questions. These may be characteristics commonly associated with moody teenagers, and do not necessarily signal that your child is being harassed, but if mood changes are regularly accompanied by petulant responses and jumpy reactions, it might be time to check if everything is okay. Responses such as “good” or “fine” should not be taken as satisfactory by parents – they do not always mean that everything is good and fine.
Loss of interest
Next up is an abrupt loss of interest in a hobby or passion. Does your child love playing football or the guitar, but has suddenly lost all interest? This could also be a sign that somebody is giving them a hard time. Similarly, if your child begins distancing themselves from family and friends, this may be an indication that they are having a hard time.
Quitting social media
Lastly, watch out for your child suddenly quitting social media. In an age where young people invest a lot of time into building their digital presence, notably on social media, abruptly deleting an account should set off an alarm.
To wrap up, it can be very daunting for children to speak out about their experiences or admit they are being bullied, which is why it is important that parents are able to spot if their child is a victim of online abuse or harassment. Pay close attention to how your child is doing and, if needed, be ready to offer a helping hand.
To learn more about more dangers faced by children online as well as about how technology can help, head over to https://saferkidsonline.eset.com.