Sticks and stones may break some bones, but words can do irreparable damage too. We are taught to be rubber and that others are glue, but the truth is that harmful words can seriously affect a person’s mental health and self-esteem.
Over the years there has been a significant increase in the amount of cyberbullying around the world. Cyberbullying is common among teenagers and young adults, but it happens with younger children as well. This may be because children are being exposed to technology from a much younger age. Television and smart devices are used to keep kids entertained and leads to them being way more technologically advanced than we were at that age.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is any form of online bullying or harassment with a repeated behaviour and harmful intent. It can be aimed at an individual or a group. It varies from spreading rumours (whether true or untrue), threats, sharing personal information or labels that refer to person’s skin colour or heritage. Although bullying in general is something that occurs in all schools, cyberbullying is more dangerous as it can happen without anyone knowing about it and it can be anonymous, as you can hide your identity online.
With bullying, the culprit can be reprimanded and even expelled in extreme cases, but children are not as forthcoming if they are being cyberbullied for fear of what people may think of them. There is also not much authorities can do if the harassment is happening online, as there is no real threat of physical harm, even if the messages themselves are threatening.
The repercussions of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying has some serious repercussions on a person’s self-esteem. A person who is repeatedly harassed and made fun of or threatened, will more likely be at risk of depression and anxiety and will also be more likely to commit suicide. Even though it may begin with something small and seemingly innocent, it may (and usually does) have a snowball effect.
What do you do if child is being cyberbullied?
The most important thing to remember if your child is being harassed or bullied is their safety. Limit the time spent on smart devices and the websites that your children can visit to lower the risk of them constantly being attacked. Make sure your children feel protected, and more importantly supported. Get them professional help if they need it. We need to encourage our kids to speak to us if there are any problems. If you have an open relationship with your children, they will be more willing to talk to you about any potential problems they may be experiencing. Speak to the parents of the individuals who are harassing your child to make them aware of the problem and notify the school so that they can monitor the situation from their side as well.
What do you do if your child is cyberbullying someone else?
If your child has been accused of cyberbullying someone else, find out what the reason is for their behaviour. It is never pleasant if your child is being blamed for something and you will naturally want to come to your child’s defence. Put yourself in the other parent, or child’s shoes and think how you would react if your child was the one being harassed. Work with your child and take the means (any access to smart devices) away if necessary.
Cyberbullying is a growing issue and it must be addressed it as soon as it happens to ensure the safety and health of our children and to have peace of mind as parents.