Are there any warning signs that might indicate when cyberbullying is occurring?
A child or teenager may be a victim if he or she: unexpectedly stops using the computer; appears nervous or jumpy when an instant message or email appears; appears uneasy about going to school or outside in general; appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after using the computer; avoids discussions about what they are doing on the computer; or becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members. A child or teenager may be a cyberbully if he or she: quickly switches screens or closes programs when you walk by; gets unusually upset if computer privileges are reduced; avoids discussions about what they are doing on the computer; or appears to be using multiple online accounts (or an account that is not their own). In general, if a youth acts in ways that are inconsistent with their usual behavior when using the computer, it’s time to find out why – says cyberbullying expert Sameer Hinduja.
What can parents do?
The best tack parents can take when their child is cyberbullied is to make sure they feel (and are) safe and secure, and to convey unconditional support. Parents must demonstrate to their children through words and actions that they both desire the same end result: that the cyberbullying stop and that life does not become even more difficult. This can be accomplished by working together to arrive at a mutually-agreeable course of action, as sometimes it is appropriate (and important) to solicit the child’s perspective as to what might be done to improve the situation. If necessary, they should explain the importance of scheduling a meeting with school administrators (or a teacher they trust) to discuss the matter. They may also be able to contact the parents of the offender, and/or work with the Internet Service Provider, Cell Phone Service Provider, or Content Provider to investigate the issue or remove the offending material. The police should also be approached when physical threats are involved or a crime has possibly been committed.
According to Hinduja, whom many consider a bullying expert, if a parent discovers that their child is cyberbullying others, they should first communicate how that behavior inflicts harm and causes pain in the real world as well as in cyberspace. Depending on the level of seriousness of the incident, and whether it seems that the child has realized the inappropriate nature of his or her behavior, consequences should be firmly applied (and escalated if the behavior was repetitive). If the incident was particularly serious, parents may want to consider installing tracking or filtering software as a consequence as well. Moving forward, it is essential that parents pay even greater attention to the Internet and cell phone activities of their children to make sure that they have internalized the lesson and are acting in responsible ways.
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