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Cyberbullying: How to spot the signs and protect your child

When my son was bullied in school, it was a heart-wrenching experience to see the emotional and psychological toll it took on him. As parents, we naturally worry about a multitude of things as our children head off to school, and one of the most concerning is the potential for bullying.

With the rapid advancements in technology and the growing prevalence of social media, we’ve got a whole new set of worries as parents: cyberbullying.

Technology has made bullying much easier and more accessible than ever before and this causes me to feel more anxious and worried about my children’s safety and well-being.

At the same time, we can’t disconnect our children from the digital world as it is deeply intertwined with many aspects of their lives, from communication and entertainment to education and socialization.

Being disconnected from the digital world may also impact many other opportunities such as career advancement as they grow into adulthood, 

How can we safeguard and protect our children while allowing them to be online? 

I’ve taken it upon myself to research, find and implement ways to do that and I’ll be sharing some of the strategies I’ve found to be effective so that other parents can also take steps to protect their children and prevent cyberbullying.

What is cyberbullying?

Before we head straight to the strategies, we need to understand what is cyberbullying. It is a form of bullying that happens online which can involve sending mean or hurtful messages, spreading rumours or embarrassing pictures or videos, or excluding someone from online groups or chats which can result in a lasting effect. 

That is the reason why it becomes a growing concern in today’s digital age for parents, educators, and policymakers to work together to prevent and address instances of cyberbullying.

As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs of cyberbullying and take steps to protect your child’s mental health and safety online.

How cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying

In my opinion, even though cyberbullying and traditional bullying share a number of common characteristics, such as 

  • the intentional and repeated targeting of a victim with hurtful, threatening, or intimidating behaviour
  • causing significant harm to the victim’s mental health and well-being, including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem
  • having serious and long-lasting effects on the victim’s social and academic functioning, including school avoidance, decreased academic performance, and difficulty making friends

While cyberbullying and traditional bullying share some similarities, there are also some notable differences between the two.

Physical vs Online

Traditional bullying occurs face-to-face while cyberbullying takes place online through digital devices. This means that cyberbullying can occur anytime and anywhere, and can be more difficult to track or identify the perpetrator. 

Audience Size

Cyberbullying can have a wider audience than traditional bullying, as hurtful messages or posts can be shared quickly and easily with a large number of people in the digital world. It can be difficult to remove and continue to be shared online causing ongoing harm to the victim. This can amplify the harm caused to the victim and make it more difficult to escape the bullying.

Moreover, cyberbullying can also be more difficult to track and identify the perpetrator, as the anonymity provided by the internet can embolden bullies to act in ways they wouldn’t in a face-to-face setting.

These differences highlight the unique challenges of preventing and addressing cyberbullying in today’s digital age.

Both forms of bullying can cause long-term psychological damage, and it’s crucial for parents, educators, and policymakers to take all forms of bullying seriously and work together to prevent and address it.

Know the signs of cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is harder to spot as compared to traditional bullying as it can happen anonymously where the perpetrator can hide their identity and it can take place outside of school. 

For instance, an anonymous person may spread hurtful comments online and share with a large audience causing psychological harm to the victim as the content remain online for a long time and be assessed by anyone. 

Most of the time, the victim may find it embarrassing to admit what happened to them or even worse, they don’t even realise that they are being bullied. 

How can we spot the signs of our child being bullied? 

Changes in behaviour

If a child suddenly becomes withdrawn, anxious, more irritable or aggressive, or avoids activities that they used to enjoy previously.

For school-going children, another obvious change is when you noticed there is a decline in their academic performance. 

Avoidance of social situations or technology

If a child starts to avoid social situations or lose interest in activities previously enjoyed or suddenly stop using their phone or computer

Changes in sleep or eating habits

If a child is cyberbullied, their sleep pattern will be disrupted as they experience insomnia, nightmares or even difficulty in falling asleep. They may even experience loss of appetite or overeat. 

If you notice any of these changes in your child’s behaviour, it is important to talk to them and find out what is going on and start taking action if you suspect that your child is being bullied online.

Prevention and Action Steps for Parents

As parents, we tend to talk in a controlling and authoritative tone to our children without realising it and this caused the child to feel suffocated and resentful which leads to rebellion and withdrawal. 

So, how do we talk to our children so that they will open up and tell us what’s happening? 

Communicate with your child

I always thought that if I talk in a controlling and authoritative tone, my child will obediently open up to me and tell me what goes on in their life. 

Honestly speaking, this does not happen. Instead, it backfired. They stopped talking to me and became more closed up. 

In order for my children to open up to me and tell me about their feelings, effective communication is the key. 

Whenever they speak, I listen actively by giving them full attention and making eye contact. As much as I can, avoid criticizing or dismissing their ideas even if I disagree with them so that they feel more supported and heard. 

Limiting technology use

Is not easy to limit technology use especially when the children are older. After trying out several ways, I realised that involving them in establishing clear rules and guidelines for technology use at home, such as limiting screen time and setting specific times of day when technology can be used, is the best way.

More tips on how to manage your child’s screen time can be found at “7 Tips for Managing Your Child’s Screen Time for a Better Digital Experience

Monitoring social media activity

The easiest way to do this is to set privacy settings and parental control on your child’s social media accounts and devices so as to protect their personal information. 

Another important way is to have an open conversation with your child about the dangers of social media and encourage them to come to you if they experience negative interactions online. 

I am cool with my children accessing social media or being on it but I always remind that them if they find any behaviour or comments that are negative or suspicious, to come and look for me to clarify and discuss. 

At the same time, they are also open to me following their accounts and allowing me to keep track of them so that I am able to alert them if there are any potential issues. 

As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with cyberbullying and take steps to prevent it from happening to your child. 

By staying informed and involved, we can help protect our child’s mental health and ensure they have a positive experience online. Always remember that taking action as soon as possible is key when it comes to cyberbullying, so don’t hesitate to intervene if you suspect your child is being bullied. Seek help from professionals like a counsellor or therapist if needed.


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