The digital world is a world full of knowledge and opportunities for children. As profitable it may seem, it is also a dark world, which pulls in everyone. Technology today is a double-edged sword; as much as it is beneficial, it is also harmful in many ways. Out of the many disadvantages cyberbullying is one of them.
Bullying is in itself a disturbing experience for any child. Cyberbullying happens when someone uses technology to bully/harass/threaten the other person as a child has access to the internet every day around. Cyberbullying can be harmful because it is a continuous process. The bully can reach the child even in the safe confines of his home. Mostly it is noted in kids who use the internet or are active on social media platforms. So these include kids above the age of 7 and primarily teens. If you follow it by definition, most teens are affected by it. If the bully is an adult, it comes under cyberstalking or cyber harassment that can have legal consequences.
Effects of cyberbullying both on the victim and the bully:
The most prominent harm of modern-day bullying is that it can happen at home and school.
Kids who are bullied might find it as a trap with no escape.
They are at risk till they have access to devices such as a phone, computer, etc.
In long term effects.
Both the victims and the bullies are at risk for anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders.
As it impacts the mental health of a child, cyberbullying often leads to suicidal thoughts in the victim’s mind.
As parents, we should teach our kids to be safe as they say prevention is better than cure. Some guidelines which we can share with our kids to help them stay safe.
- Never post personal pictures
- Never reveal personal information, such as phone number, address, name
- Never share passwords
- Never meet anyone who you met online without your parent’s approval
- If you feel threatened, always talk to your parents.
Things we as parents should do to keep our kids safe.
- As with every learning activity, for children, always show, don’t tell. Show them appropriate online behavior.
- Bookmark their favorite sites for easy access.
- Keep the PC in a common area where you can monitor it
- Take your child seriously if he/she feels uncomfortable on the web
Controlling the online activity of teens:
Teens are someone who would want some privacy in their lives. They may carry a smartphone at all times. Monitoring them would give them a feeling of being controlled, which is something they would resist naturally.
- Rather than control, talk to them about sites that teens use and their online experiences. Talk to them about the dangers of
2.Remind them that passwords are there to protect them and should never be shared with anyone. Not even Girlfriend/boyfriend/best friend.
Even with everything in place, there are times your child might fall prey to cyberbullying. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Being upset after using the internet and being secretive about one’s digital life.
- broad changes in mood, behavior, and sleep.
- Being nervous about getting a mail, text
- Try to ignore discussions about computer and phone activities
- Avoiding gatherings.
If you do find your child showing anyone of the above signs, what should you as a parent do? It isn’t comforting to see one’s child suffer.
Things to do if you witness your child is being bullied
If ever your child complains about being bullied, give him/her comfort and support. It is an excellent indication that your child feels safe talking to you.
Talk to your child about your childhood experiences so that he/she doesn’t feel alone.
Most importantly, let them know that its not their fault
Praise them for talking to you about such an issue.
Building confidence will help you reassure your child that you will figure out what should be done.
If you feel that the one bulling your child is present in school, let someone at school (Teacher/principal)know about the situation.
Make sure you take the child into confidence before seeking help.
BLOCKING THE BULLY
If you know who the bully is, try to make sure you block him/her from all devices.
Even while being bullied, kids can’t resist the temptation to check websites or phone for new messages. Keep the PC in a public place or use parental control options available in their smartphones.
TRY TO ACCESS YOUR KIDS ONLINE WORLD
Follow your child’s social media sites and keep track of what’s going on. Do not try to take advantage of it but keep a close look at the people your child befriends on social media.
If your child is involved in bullying
There may be times when the opposite might be true as well when your child is not the victim but the bully himself.
Always try to differentiate the behaviour from the child. Never tag a child as a bully.
Signs to look for if your child is a bully :
- Multiple accounts on social media
- Frequent use of abusive language when on-call or texting
- Secretive behaviour, getting annoyed around parents or any grown-ups.
- Obsession with online activity
- Resisting parental involvement.
It is disturbing for a parent to accept their kids are bullying someone. It’s essential to understand why a child feels the need to bully someone.
- Peer pressure: Just to fit in with the crowd. For some kids, it’s just a good joke, which everyone around is doing.
- Sense of power: It gives the child a sense of power, gives them an audience who would laugh. Puts them in a position of control and importance.
- Being invincible: Online cyberbullying becomes more interesting for children as they believe they will never get caught. The child never sees the victim’s pain, and hence it gets difficult to have empathy for the victim. They feel safe and potent.
When does cyberbullying become a crime?
There are times when reporting the incident is the only way to ensure the safety of your child.
- When your child’s safety is compromised.
- Defaming a child by spreading lies
- Abatement to suicide
- The threat for money can be considered extortion.
- Publishing private pictures without consent.
The consequence of bullying
Students found guilty can be suspended from school or sports team. Sometimes it is even considered a crime.
Different sections of the criminal code of Canada deal with cyberbullying
- criminal threats(section 264)
- intimidation(section 423(1))
- unauthorized use of the computer(section 342.1)
- publication of an intimate image(section 319)
If found guilty under any of these sections, the bully can be imprisoned for five years. Their devices seized or asked to reimburse the victim.
Most of the cyberbullying cases go unreported as young people often refuse to seek help from an adult for fear of losing their access to technology. It becomes mandatory for the government to bring in programmes that could help both parents and children in reporting and stopping such behaviour.
There are a few anti-cyberbullying programs, but the effectiveness of these is questionable.
Friendly ATTAC- Adaptive technological tools against Cyberbullying
This approach uses virtual experience to increase positive bystander behavior.
This application detects harmful language before it is sent out.
OLWEUS Cyberbullying prevention program
This program deals with attitudes and behaviors associated with cyberbullying. It’s a whole curriculum designed to make parents aware of the dangers of cyberbullying.
Please visit www.bullyingcanada.ca for additional info and resources.
Cyberbullying is one of the enormous parenting challenges of the digital age. With rapidly changing technology, it becomes difficult to find a permanent solution to such a problem. Bringing stricter government laws against the bully, too, can not completely eradicate the problem.
In such a scenario, we as parents can influence our children towards acceptable behavior by setting an example ourselves. It becomes essential for us to model good online habits to help our kids understand the benefits and the dangers of this digital world.