How-To PROTECT your teen from Cyber Bullying
Protect your teen from Cyber Bullying: I recently read a research about cyber bullying in teens. I was shocked to learn how much it can damage a child’s personality. And the only thing I could think of was how to protect my teen from cyber bullying.
As a parent of two teen kids I feel all parents of teens should be aware of cyberbullying.
This is something that most of us would not have experienced when we were growing up. At least, not to the magnitude it is happening these days.
Because we haven’t experienced it, sometimes we do not understand or lack the knowledge for it. It is impossible to protect our teens from cyber bullying without knowing what cyber bullying is. Because, firstly we may not be aware that it is happening to our own children and secondly we may discount the amount of mental damage it does to our children as we do not understand ‘internet life’ or ‘social media life’ enough.
So, it is very important for us to know about this kind of bullying. As in this era, our children also spend a lot of time with their phones and on social media.
Topics Covered in the Blog
- What is Cyber Bullying
- How is Cyberbullying different from other bullying?
- What does cyber bullying look like
- How to find out if your teen is a victim or a perpetrator
- Effects of cyber bullying on teens
- 12 Things you can do if your teen is being cyber bullied?
- How to protect your teen from cyber bullying.
- 9 steps to follow when being cyberbullied
- An important note to parents
Research shows that the most common age at which children are susceptible to cyber bullying is between 10 to 12 and between teenage years.
Cyber bullying can affect a child mentally, emotionally, and socially. This kind of bullying is the kind of trouble which is difficult to control as it is not done face to face and cannot be undone once done.
Cyber bullies usually use their computers and mobiles for harassment and share private content publicly.
So, read on to get valuable insights on this topic and also learn on ways to protect your teen from cyber bullying. And educate yourself and in turn educate and protect your teen from cyberbullying.
What is Cyber Bullying
To start your journey on trying to protect your teen from cyber bullying. Let’s understand first what cyberbullying is.
Cyber bullying is a type of bullying done by using electronic means. The bully uses technology to intentionally inflict hurt and embarrassment to the victim there by bullying them.
Just like what happens in the real world, children or people can have differences of opinion and fight among each other online.
However, this does not constitute bullying or cyber bullying.
In case of cyber bullying there is an intentional intent to hurt or embarrass someone and it is being done systematically and consistently targeted on that person.
How is Cyberbullying different from other bullying?
Bullying is usually a type of behavior that causes harassment and harm to someone. But if we talk about cyber bullying it is more harmful.
- The embarrassment is much more as everything is visible to public domain.
- Everyone on social media can view cyber bullying. Therefore, the person who is bullied becomes a subject of discussion and humiliation. Content that was meant to be private is now available for everyone.
- Once any kind of content is shared on social media or the internet, it becomes very difficult and is nearly impossible to fully remove such content.
- The victims do not know who is bullying them.
- The bully can come through fake IDs or change screen names.
- The bully need not worry about physical retaliation from the victim. Their aim is just to tarnish the victim’s image and disrupt their peace.
- The resonance of the bullying can be long. And one cannot just walk away from it.
- The humiliation is online and available to anyone 24X7. There is no possible escape.
- The potential of things getting viral and reaching audiences far beyond one’s span of control is very high.
Any type of bullying is bad and cyber bullying is more devastating because one cannot remove themselves from the situation. And must deal with it in public watch.
By now, you would have understood why you need to protect your teen from cyber bullying.
Sounds scary right. It did so for me.
What does cyber bullying look like (Common methods used in cyberbullying)
How can you protect your teen from cyber bullying when you don’t know what cyber bullying looks like? We have this covered for you.. read on..
Cyber bullying has many forms and the most common forms of cyberbullying are the following.
- Sending text messages, emails or Direct Messages that are hurtful or teasing on social sites.
- Harassment by way of wrongly reporting someone and have them kicked off.
- Spamming someone with texts or messages that are inappropriate.
- Impersonating a person. Using someone else’s picture and/or name to post irrelevant and vulgar content.
- In some cases, the bully can impersonate to be a friend or someone your teen is having a crush on and mislead your teen.
- Offensive name calling, demeaning behavior all meant to suppress and shame the victim publicly
- Threatening victims to share personal conversations, images or embarrassing texts publicly.
- Receiving explicit images
- Spread rumors and lies on social sites about person being cyber bullied
- Sending images or videos that cause humiliation, harassment, and embarrassment.
- Girls can become victims of “slut shaming”. Where the bully is trying to insult or demean the way the victim dresses, their body image, mannerism etc.
- Spy on the victim using spyware or other malicious hacking programs.
- It has become a common trend to engage in fun activities by way of opinion polls. Here the bully creates a poll to get peoples opinion on an aspect of the victim that can embarrass the victim. For example, a poll like ‘Does the victim look like a fat pig or a dirty cow?’
- Video shaming is also one of the tactics used. There are many ways. Right from sharing humiliating videos of the victim to creating videos with the victim’s face morphed and then sharing it around.
- They can also do it in a subtle way. For example, they can post something indicating or pointing to your teen but not necessarily directly naming your teen.
So, what I have outlined above is indicative of the methods that people use to cyberbully somebody.
And if we as parents know what cyberbullying is and how it looks like then we are much educated and equipped to spot when these kinds of bullying happen and thereby be able to protect our teens from cyber bullying..
Also, it is wise if we share these indicators with our teenagers so that they can also watch out and spot when such things happen to them or anyone they know.
How to find out if your teen is a victim or a perpetrator
Any behavior change needs to be investigated. Especially when they are sudden and drastic. And you can see shifts in your teens mood.
A vigilant parent will look for these inconsistencies and probe further.
Below are a few broad signs that you can look for. And when you spot them you can talk to your teen to put your suspicion at rest.
Ways to SPOT if your teen is cyber bullied
- Shows signs of nervousness being online.
- Has a drastic change of mood after their online activity.
- Acts withdrawn or distant. Keeps away from friends.
- Stops using their devices or gets out of social groups online, or uninstalls a few social apps from their device.
- Gives you very vague answers when you ask about their online activity. And usually appears unhappy to discuss about it
- You spot them appearing nervous or jittery when their phone beeps or rings or a notification comes in.
- They avoid going to a few places which they usually enjoyed. Or they avoid going to school if they were bullied by school mates.
How to spot if your teen is a cyberbully
You can sense or get a first level indication that your child might be a cyber bully if they display few of these traits
- Your teen is very secretive about their online usage.
- Tends to quickly close the screen or hides away their gadget when you walk past them.
- You find that they are having multiple online accounts.
- Usually displays behaviours of screen addiction. And can get very wild and upset when you take it away from them.
- Bullies in real life also tend to be very mean people. They might swear on others. Humiliate or harass people who work for them or for the household.
- They talk negatively of other people. Try to slander them or talk behind their backs.
- Boast of the power they have online or how they are going to teach someone a lesson.
Effects of cyber bullying on teens
Being cyber bullies had severe side effects. Some of the main effects are mentioned below
- Stress and depression
- Feeling of fear and isolation
- Poor concentration
- Decreased self esteem
- Low confidence
- Scared and frustrated
- Angry with negative emotional response
- Frustrated behavior
- In extreme cases, cyber bullying can lead to suicidal thoughts or suicide itself because of the amount of shame and embarrassment they are put through.
So, it is really really important that you do everything possible to protect your teen from cyber bullying.
12 Things you can do if your teen is being cyber bullied
Now we will discuss in detail on how to react and help if your teen is a victim of cyber bullying.
1. Be a supportive parent
Once you know that your child is being cyber bullied, the very first thing you can do is be a supportive and empathetic parent. Make them feel safe and secure. Tell your teens that it is not their fault and that you will stand by them. Try to reduce their stress and depression and not magnify the shame and embarrassment that is already there.
2. Encourage your teen
Motivate your teens that they can get over this difficult situation. Motivate them by different stories of problems and difficulties. Tell them there is always happiness after grieving and this time will also pass, they just need a little courage to go through this.
3. Try to minimize the problem
Cyber bullying is already a serious and depressing situation for teens. You should try to minimize the situation to make your teen feel better. Never stop allowing your teen going online at all. If you try to set limitations on your teen there is a strong possibility that they will not trust to tell you if it occurs again.
4. Give emotional support to your child
Cyber bullying can affect your child emotionally. Being a parent, you should give support to your child to overcome this kind of bullying. You can give emotional support to your child through the following ways.
- Speak freely with your teens and listen to what they want to say, or how they feel
- Thank them for opening up. Let them know you are there for their support
- Tell your teens they are not alone, or they can seek guidance about cyber bullying from you, from their teachers or any other professionals.
- Let them know they can take professional help if necessary. Be it for their emotional help or to report the cyber bullying incident(s).
5. Empathize with your teen
Try to understand your teen’s feelings and emotions when they have been cyber bullied. Encourage them with your emotional support. Encourage them to speak to a mental health professional if they are not feeling well.
6. Never blame your child for cyber bullying
Bullying is a bad deed of some bad persons; it is not your child’s mistake. Never ever blame your teens for being cyber bullied, as bullying is never the fault of the person being bullied.
7. Take school or parents’ support
If you find out that the attack came from another student in school, then report it to the school for them to help with the issue. If it is from people you know then talk to the bully’s parents and seek their help. Keep your teen updated on these so that they are aware of it and do not end up resenting you.
8. Contact with content provider or group admin
You can contact the content provider or the group admin. As cyber bullying violates the terms of services of all legitimate service providers. Contact the relevant provider.
9. Google your teen account
Once in a month Google your child name or account name on Google search engine or on all major search engines and see if there is any personal information related to your teen’s privacy that can be used by cyber bullies. Act until they remove. Once you get rid of cyber bullies, check your teen’s account on search engines sender month to be aware of such kinds of situations if they occur again.
10. Have a conversation with the cyber bully
Usually bullying on social media is anonymous. But if you know a cyber bully or their parents, I would strongly suggest that you discuss this issue with the cyber bully or their parents. Try to have a conversation, this could resolve issues.
11. Reset privacy settings of your teen’s accounts
Reset privacy settings of your teen’s accounts by yourself with your teen’s consent or knowledge. Block the people who are involved in bullying and file a report against them.
12. Contact with police if there are physical threats
Cyber bullying is a crime. If there are physical threats to your teen through cyber bullying, then you should report to law enforcement officials. There are laws and rules for online cyber bullying. These laws vary from state to state. Contact with your law enforcement officials and get their help.
How to protect your teen from cyber bullying.
As cyber bullying is too dangerous and harmful, you should be proactive about this disaster.
Prevention is always better than cure.
Here, I am going to discuss some tips, to help you try and protect your teen from cyber bullying.
- Keep lines of communication between you and your teen open. Be approachable and ready to talk to them.
- Educate yourself about cyber bullying and find out the solution of this type of bullying. This will help you to be prepared if it even occurs in future.
- Educate your teen about cyber bullying and its causes and effects. Make them understand it is wrong and they should also not resort to it.
- Try to share some stories of cyberbullying with your teens, so that they become more careful about their social media life.
- Educate your teen on the methods used (listed above) so they can easily spot the patterns or bully.
- Try and minimize the time that your teen spends with electronics. Set schedules, rules, and consequences.
- Drum it into them that on social media your child should only chat with people your teen knows very well.
- Educate them to ignore messages from unknown numbers and persons. Guide them, although through the internet they can make new friends, they should be aware of fake profiles.
- Teach them about privacy settings and Ensure proper privacy settings are set up on your teen’s social media accounts.
- Make sure your child knows very well not to share passwords or private contact details with anyone.
- Make sure your child knows how to block someone.
- Teach your teen that it is OK to report to admin or authority if they face a bullying situation.
- Educate your teen about sharing images and videos online. Talk to your teen about privacy and explain once they are online, they lose control who can see them.
- Engage your teen with more offline activities. When they spend less time on social media the chances of being cyber bullied also decrease.
- Ask them to logout of their accounts on public computers. If possible, use a two-level verification. And teach them not to ignore the alerts sent by portals when they find suspicious activities.
- Keep personal information private. And monitor the apps that they are giving permission to or downloading.
- Talk about technology dangers and ask them to think twice before posting
9 steps to follow when being cyberbullied
I have seen from my own experience that all this knowledge jumps out of the window when the attack happens.
So, spend a little more time with your child to go through these 9 steps that they need to follow when they are being cyberbullied.
When you teach them this and revise it with them, you are training them to act in a logical way and in an appropriate fashion when they are under a stressful situation.
- Teach your teen not to respond or react to an attack.
- Ask them to maintain their cool if they are provocative to respond.
- Record the bullying act which will help while reporting or seeking help.
- Teach them not to indulge in tit for tat behavior. Or seek revenge for the act.
- Teach them to report to the group admin or network moderator immediately. Preferably with evidence they have recorded. Both the person and the post. And request for the post to be removed.
- Get out of the forum, the group, or the conversation to avoid further exposure.
- Block the bully completely so they do not use other mediums to get to your teen. (Phone, email, chat, social media etc.)
- Inform parents immediately and talk about the incident.
- Take a break and cool it off. Leave the device behind and move to another space or outdoor.
Note: Also teach your teen that they need to stand for the victim when they find others under attack.
An important note to parents
As parents it is our responsibility to protect our teens from cyber bullying. And give support to our teenagers in difficult situations. Unfortunately, if your teens are being cyberbullied do not be aggressive towards them.
As they are already depressed, you should try to reduce their stress and anxiety. Try to minimize the problem and find possible solutions.
Try to give proper guidance to your teens about social media and their limitations while online without being too harsh and strict.
Despite your best effort to protect your teen from cyber bullying, if your child is still being cyber bullied, show patience and support to your child. Do not blame them or blame yourself for being cyber bullied.
Try to overcome the situation and find possible solutions. In case of physical threats, go to the police.
As it is the era of internet and technology. Everything is on social media; you cannot prevent your teen from going online but you can be proactive about future problems.
Tell your teens that excess of everything is bad. Set rules for use of electronics. Try to engage your kids in offline activities.
Spend more time with them. Understand their world. Try and have family activities with them.
Sometimes, as a mother I dread the world that is out there waiting for my children. But I also know that my success in parenting is when I prepare them to face the same world with all its good and bad and enjoy and have a fulfilling life.
So, one step at a time. Hand holding them and educating them along the way. We can partner with our teen to tide over, if possible, prevent any mishaps.
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