Helping your child survive cyberbullying

cyber bullyingCC: Anemone123 at Pixabay

Just 10 years ago, children who suffered from bullying did not take the problem home with them. Thanks to smartphones and social media, cyberbullying has changed all that.

As a public health crisis that affects children on both ends of the spectrum, cyberbullying is an issue parents should take seriously. If your child is suffering at the hands of online bullying, you need to know how to protect their health.

Understand the effects of cyberbullying

It’s important to understand that cyberbullying can cause a lot of emotional harm. In previous generations, children gained respite from their bullies at home. Today, the problem is always there.

Some of the effects of cyberbullying include:

  • Poor performance at school
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Low self-worth
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, and stomach aches

Alongside stopping the problem itself, it’s important to help your child find coping mechanisms for the above. As a parent, there’s a lot you can do to make their lives better.

Managing stress and poor sleep

The easiest way to manage stress is to remove the stressor. As adults, we’re able to draw appropriate boundaries. Unfortunately, children aren’t emotionally mature enough to do this for themselves.

Depending on your child’s age, you need to monitor their Internet use thoroughly. It’s wise to block the types of social media where cyberbullying is most likely to occur. This includes Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even Whatsapp. It’s also wise to look at their app and Internet history to identify sources you may not be aware of. Private question and answer sites such as Tellonym allow bullying to occur at an anonymous and insidious level.

Understandably, your child won’t want to feel alienated from their friends. As such, it’s a good idea to let them keep a phone, but restrict it to calls and texts only. Block them from downloading apps, or routinely monitor their phone to prevent dangerous app usage.

Introduce healthier stress-reduction mechanisms

You may want to introduce your child to stress-reduction mechanisms that are healthy and manageable. Meditation apps, exercise, and writing down feelings all contribute toward eliminating anxious thoughts.

Maintain an open dialogue

Around 16% of high school students experience cyberbullying. Shockingly, only 20 to 30% of those who are bullied will report the incident to an adult.

Some children may fear reporting bullying as they believe it will make the problem worse. Others might assume that ignoring the issue will make it go away. In either instance, it’s important to remember that your child may not have the best insights for analyzing the situation.

It’s a good idea to monitor your child’s moods and approach them with reassurance if something seems unusual. Let them know that you’ll never be angry, no matter what their role in the situation is. When they feel able to offload to you, they’ll reduce some of their anxieties and may not encounter the sense of isolation that comes with facing the problem alone.

If your child still isn’t opening up and you suspect there’s a problem, consider talking to other adults. Ask the school to look out for issues or ask their friends’ parents if they’re aware of any difficulties.

Find morale-boosting activities

When your child feels alone because of cyberbullying, it’s important not to let them isolate themselves. Focus on enjoying lots of family time and look for morale-boosting activities. This could include more day trips together, sports, or promoting more engagement with their hobbies.

Finally, never be afraid to look for help elsewhere. Cybersmile has an excellent list of resources for managing cyberbullying.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.