You’ve probably heard about online bullying (also called cyberbullying) on the news. And maybe you’re concerned it could happen to your child.
Kids with learning and attention issues are at higher risk than other kids. And it’s for the same reasons they may be bullied more often in the classroom or on the playground. They may be targeted because they have poor social skills and find it difficult to make friends. They may suffer from low self-esteem or be seen as “different.”
Your child may not tell you if he’s being bullied online. Learn how to recognize the signs. And find out what you can do if your child is dealing with cyberbullying.
Why Kids Don’t Tell Their Parents
Unfortunately, many kids don’t tell their parents they’re being cyberbullied. They may not know exactly what counts as bullying online. Make sure your child understands that if someone spreads rumors about him online, posts fake profiles of him or sends him mean texts or emails, that’s bullying.
Even if kids do realize they’re being bullied, they may not be sure how to handle the situation. Rather than speak up, they may just stay silent while they try to figure it out. They may be worried that if they complain, the bullying will get worse. Or they may feel that some attention from kids—even if it’s negative—is better than none.
Kids may also be afraid of losing online privileges. They might be nervous that their parents will address the problem by taking away their cell phones and computers.
How to Recognize the Signs of Online Bullying
Since your child may not tell you about it, it’s important for you to be aware of possible signs that he’s being bullied online. He could be a victim of cyberbullying if:
- He suddenly stops using the computer, even though he’s always enjoyed it before.
- He doesn’t want to use the computer in a place where you can see it.
- He turns off the computer monitor or changes screens every time you walk by.
- He seems nervous or jumpy when he gets an instant message, text or email.
- He alludes to bullying indirectly by saying something like “there’s a lot of drama at school” or “I have no friends.”
- He doesn’t want to go to school or appears uneasy about going.
- He becomes withdrawn.
How You Can Help
If it doesn’t stop, cyberbullying can put your child at risk for anxiety and depression. It can also make it difficult for your child to concentrate at school. But there are steps you can take if you think he may be the target of online bullying.
Start by talking to your child. You can open the conversation by describing a bullying incident that happened to you as a child, or an example of cyberbullying that you heard about on the news.
If your child isn’t forthcoming, calmly tell him that you’re going to exercise your right to be the administrator of his computer and phone. You need to be able to see where he’s been online and the history of what he’s deleted.
If you confirm that he is being bullied, there are things you can do to put a stop to it. Suggest to your child that he let the bullies know you have access to his electronics: “I know this sounds crazy, but my parents are the administrators of this computer so they can see everything. I can’t control what they do.”
If that doesn’t work and the bullying is intense and frequent, you may need to take one or all of these three steps:
- Talk to the parents of the kids who are bullying your child. Let them know what’s going on and how it’s affecting him.
- Reach out to your child’s guidance counselor or principal. Every school should have anti-cyberbullying policies and protocols to help.
- If neither of those strategies works, you may need to get law enforcement involved. Print out or save evidence of the bullying in case you need it to show the police.
If your child experiences anxiety, loneliness and other issues because of bullying, consider seeking professional help. There are many options for emotional help for your child. You don’t have to do it alone.