Bullying No Way! – Cyberbullying.
Many of our young people now spend significant portions of their time interacting socially online and their online life can be a key part of their identity. As such online bullying can have a devastating impact on young people and it’s important that we are on the look out for signs that our young person is being bullied online and that if they are we know how best to support them.
Cyberbullying behaviors take many forms, such as sending abusive messages, hurtful images or videos, nasty online gossip, excluding or humiliating others, or creating fake accounts in someone’s name to trick or humiliate them. Unfortunately, these behaviors impact a significant percentage of young people with data from 2017 showing that 1 in 5 Australian young people reporting being socially excluded, threatened, or abused online and 1 in 5 young people admitting to behaving in a negative way to a peer online.
It is not uncommon for young people that are experiencing bullying to keep it to themselves because of a fear that it might make things worse if they were to tell someone or that that they may lose access to their devices and the internet – tools which they regard as being integral to their social lives. For this reason it is important to aware of the signs that young people could be a victim of bullying or be involved in online drama.
Signs to watch for:
- Being upset after using the internet or their mobile phone
- Changes in personality, such as becoming more withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry
- Appearing more lonely or distressed
- Unexpected changes in friendship groups
- A decline in their school work
- Changes in their sleep patterns
- Avoidance of school or clubs
- A decline in their physical health
- Becoming secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use.
What to do if your child is being cyberbullied
Try to resist immediately taking away their device
Cutting of their online access does not teach young people about online safety or help to build resilience. It could alienate them from their peers.
Stay calm and open – don’t panic
You want your child to feel confident that you’re not immediately going to get upset, angry or anxious if they tell you about the situation. You want them to know they can talk to you and feel heard. The best way to do this is to have an open dialogue from the beginning and to talk to them without judgement. You want them to feel that they can come to you without any problem.
Listen, think pause
Take the time to understand the problem and how your young person is experiencing it. Empathise with how they feel. If you gauge the problem as not overly significant but your young person is experiencing the problem intensely it may be a sign that there is something larger at play and they may need external professional help.
Try not to respond immediately.
Take some time to consider the best course of action and work through options with your young person.
Take the right actions to protect your child
If necessary, act to protect your child. If there is a physical risk to your child or another young person call triple zero immediately or if the risk is less urgent consult a GP as soon as possible.
Before your young person blocks someone ask them to take screenshots and collect evidence including dates and times.
Advice your young person not to retaliate or respond to bullying messages. This can make things worse.
Encourage positive connections and coping strategies
Try and keep your young person engaged in their interests, hobbies and schooling. These things are important protective factors while withdrawing from social settings can cause much more harm than good despite the fact that this is often what young people think will help them feel safe.
Contact the school
If you do suspect your young person is being bullied via any form please contact their Wellbeing and Community Leader so that we can do our best to support.
You can find out more about cyberbullying and online drama and how to help children prevent and deal with online bullying by watching this clip from eSafety Commissioner or downloading this parent’s guide.
This article was adapted from the Federal Governments eSafety Commissioner website.