By Mark Isaiah David
Bullying is a serious and sensitive issue – it’s hard to pinpoint and even harder to deal with. But as every bullying story is different, the first step in dealing with it is the same: identifying whether or not your child is actually being bullied.
Unfortunately, it’s far from being a straight-forward exercise. Due to many reasons, most kids don’t tell their parents when someone is harassing them. Worse, it’s harder to notice when your child is being cyberbullied (being bullied online). It’s horrifying if you see marks on your child that show he is being harmed. It’s more problematic when there are no physical signs but your child is nonetheless suffering.
Here are some signs to look out for that could help you determine whether your child is being bullied online:
1. Changes in computer/mobile usage
If your child used to love playing with his computer or his phone and then suddenly lose interest, take notice. An abrupt change like that – especially if he used to enjoy using the device a lot – is a big red flag.
2. Alluding to problems
Listen to what your child is telling you – beyond the words that he’s using. Some indirect plea could take the form of “other kids at school are mean”, “our school is full of drama”, or even the heart wrenching “I don’t have any friends” can be an indirect cry for help.
3. Emotional Indicators
Unexplained sadness or anger – especially after going online – is a marker of being bullied. If your child pretends to be ill, is unwilling to go to school, or withdraws from family and friends, chances are, there’s something upsetting him. If you see your child is troubled but you don’t see the cause, you should try probing gently.
4. Physical clues
It’s not just bruises or wounds on your child that can tip you off that he’s being bullied. Inexplicable stomachaches or headaches, inability to sleep well, and sudden weight changes are all physical indicators of a troubled child.
If your child doesn’t want to use the computer in a place where you can see it, turns it off or quickly switches to a different screen whenever you are near, that’s also a sign of being cyberbullied. It is typical for someone bullied to suffer from shame – as if they’re at fault for what they’re going through. If he gets nervous or worried when he receives a message or a text, you should ask your child about it.
6. Elf-Destructive Behavior
Bullying wreaks havoc on a child’s sense of self-worth, and can lead them into undertaking self-destructive behavior. From declining grades or loss of interest in activities to far more serious actions such as running away, harming themselves, or even talking about suicide, self-destructive behavior must be addressed right away and not allowed to foster.
7. Digital cues
As a parent, you could (and should) also monitor your child’s digital activities. Some pointers that would tell you that all is not well include: strangers having fake accounts of your child’s social media accounts, new phone numbers/email addresses appear on your child’s devices, if your child blocks a phone number/social media account, if schoolmates talk about your child online but use code words or aliases in place of his name, and if your child actually asks you how to get a social media account taken down.
Just because a child doesn’t get punched or physically harmed doesn’t mean that cyberbullying is not as harmful as traditional bullying. As children use more digital devices and services, parents need to be doubly vigilant that they are protected online as much as their children are offline.
If you begin to notice these signs on your child, talk to them about it. Cyberbullying should never be minimized or ignored. On the next week’s issue of Techlifestyle, we’ll talk about how you can help your child deal with cyberbullying.
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