Social media lets us stay connected with friends, share our experiences, and voice our opinions. But it has also brought with it new problems and risks, which can pose threats to our children if not effectively dealt with.
One of these problems, known as ‘cyberbullying’, can lead to depression, self-harm, and even suicidal behavior – especially among its younger victims.
Cyberbullying is the use of digital communication platforms to harass another person with the aim of inflicting psychological anguish.
It comes in several forms, the most common of which are the sending or posting of abusive messages, the dissemination of hurtful rumors, and the sharing of humiliating photos or videos.
How to avoid it
Keep an eye on what your child is doing – and who with – online. Be aware of what websites they visit and what social media platforms they are using.
Instruct them on how to respond to cyberbullies, who, like their real-world counterparts, generally crave attention. Tell them to simply block the harasser rather than responding to (or retaliating against) provocations.
Make sure they are aware of the dangers of posting personal information (addresses, phone numbers, etc.) on public forums, and that they know how to use privacy settings on their social media accounts. Impart to them the importance of never sharing their passwords, even with friends.
Perhaps most importantly, they should be made to understand that there are certain things that should never, ever be sent or posted online. This includes potentially embarrassing photos or videos, and certainly anything of a sexually explicit nature.
In the event that your child becomes the target of cyberbullying, make sure they know to keep records of the abusive behavior so you have evidence (saved emails, text messages, screen captures, etc.) if the situation escalates.
How to report it
Concerned parents can therefore report instances of cyberbullying to their ISP or the social-media site involved. In this case, however, it is of the utmost importance that the abusive conduct be fully documented.
In some extreme cases, when cyberbullying crosses the line into downright criminal behaviour, it can be reported to the police.
Examples of criminal behavior include threats of violence, the sending of sexually explicit photos or messages, or the use of hate speech (i.e., abusive speech targeting particular groups on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation).
By applying these few simple rules, and maintaining a general awareness of your child’s online activity, you can vastly reduce the risk to their wellbeing posed by this pernicious trend.
How to deal with, and report, instances of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying has become an issue of concern for many parents. Here’s some advice on how to avoid it and who you should contact in case it happens.