Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent. Make sure your children are protected.
The internet has done wonders for our children. It’s helped them become better educated because of the sheer amount of information available. The huge penetration of mobile devices over the last decade has made access to the information even easier.
Sadly, the wide spread of the internet and its desensitizing effect on young children and teenagers has also led to a dark phenomenon: cyberbullying.
Bullying, in all its forms, is reprehensible. Its effects last far beyond single events
and can emotionally scar victims into their adulthoods. The psychological
wounds caused by excessive bullying can completely alter one’s life-long
behavior. Since the internet never forgets, the media used to bully people will
also forever be there.
However, the increasing amount of reported cyberbullying cases carry even further risks. This is because victims can now be tormented by their bullies without being in the same room, state, or country.
From pseudonyms to real names
In the early days of the internet, it was easy to brush off obnoxious behavior and the early versions of cyberbullying. Most of the time, people were still using anonymous online handles. It was much easier to brush attacks online because you didn’t have to share your real identity.
The rise of Facebook. These social networks encouraged people to use their real names and were identifiable through their photos and their status updates. While this made Facebook a great tool to keep in touch with family, friends, and
colleagues, it also opened the gates for more personal attacks. This effect
carried onto other platforms like Twitter and Instagram.
Armed with the ability to harass people on their real accounts, bullies are now able to create deeply personal targeted attacks and are able to do it 24 hours a day. Inboxes can be flooded with hurtful messages at any time, and tormentors can easily create new accounts and fake profiles in case their original ones get blocked.
People who use the internet as their chosen medium for bullying have grown bolder and more desensitized over time.
Apart from sharing embarrassing photos and hurtful messages, many bullies now think nothing of using racial epithets toward their victims. Some even going as far
as telling victims to kill themselves.
Harassment has also evolved into more complex forms over the years. One of the most famous cases was that of Megan Meier. She was an American teenager who committed suicide after an adult neighbor created a fake profile pretending to be a teenage boy, cultivated a friendship, and eventually sent messages designed to break her spirit.
Other bullies, instead of creating fake identities to engage their victims with,
instead steal their online identities and use these accounts to systematically destroy their reputations.
This is a deeply worrying trend because this type of constant bullying and negative attention can have extremely damaging effects on the psyches of children and teenagers. Even adults aren’t safe from this type of bullying – as both office politics and general harassment also happen to those who are of working age and older.
Making the internet a safer place
Many parents, who grew up only understanding bullies that could only physically or emotionally harm them when in close proximity, are having trouble thinking of
ways to help protect their kids.
Here are a few important steps that you can take to ensure that you protect your child from cyberbullying:
- Understand the platforms that your kids spend the most time on. Do they spend a lot of time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, LINE, Musical.ly, TikTok or Club Penguin? It’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the places that your kids frequent.
- Learn about the different types of cyberbullying tactics. Learn how to spot fake profiles, catfishing accounts, and other methods of attack, then teach your children about them.
- Have a continuous open and honest conversation with your children about the internet and its dangers. Teach them about the lack of privacy online, and the permanent nature of the internet. Tell them about what types of information they should not share on the internet.
- Maintain an open-door policy when it comes to discussing their internet activities. If your kids make a mistake or accidentally endanger themselves online, use it as a teaching point instead of placing the blame on them. They often don’t know any better.
- Work with their schools to understand if there are particular types of cyberbullying that are popular and ask about how you can help. You may not only protect your child, but many others too.
- Always be on the lookout. If your child is showing signs that they may be bullied, but aren’t willing to share, gently speak to them about it and remind them that you’re not there to judge.
Parents need to be involved in their children’s digital activities, especially since the internet has become such a big part of their daily lives. This doesn’t mean that you need to constantly hawk over them and spy on everything they do.
Engage your kids instead of policing them. Connect with them emotionally so that they view you as an ally who cares about their safety and well-being. In the long run, both of you will be glad you did.