What Is Cyberbullying, And How Can I Protect My Child Online?

Last Updated on April 30, 2024

Some years ago, my best friend went through a distressing experience of cyberbullying. Each time she logged into her accounts, she was targeted by some of her peers, who subjected her to hurtful remarks and trolling. The impact of this relentless online harassment took a toll on her physically and mentally.

A recent survey revealed that 95 percent of teenagers rely on digital devices such as phones, laptops, and gaming consoles. This extensive usage could be a contributing factor to the increasing danger of cyberbullying in comparison to other forms of bullying.

A former Facebook employee told Congress in 2021 that Facebook, particularly Instagram, deliberately kept information about the harm of social media use on teens. This information confirms what people have been saying for years about how dangerous social media is to teen mental health.

If you are here, you want to protect your kids and know about cyberbullying. Let’s jump right in!

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What Is Cyberbullying? Where Does It Take Place?

Computer Cyberbullying Guy

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Cyberbullying is when someone uses technology to hurt another person by harassing, intimidating, embarrassing, or targeting them. It can happen on your phone, computer, tablet, or gaming system.

The cyberbully can be harassed through SMS, texts, or apps on social media, forums, or online games. It can include posting mean things and fake or malicious information about someone. It may mean communicating personal information about a person and causing them to feel embarrassed or humiliated. 

Cyberbullying occurs most commonly on: 

Text messaging applications on smartphones and tablet devices
Active areas of cyberbullying include social media platforms and gaming communities. 
Instant messaging and online chat apps like Google Talk, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, Messenger, Slack, Cisco Jabber, Signal, etc
Online forums and chat rooms like Reddit 
Or even via email.

What Are The Most Common Warning Signs Of Cyberbullying?

Last year, a 15-year-old boy was bullied on social media and through text messages by classmates. They threatened him, saying he would be better off dead, and drove him to commit suicide.

Cyberbullying can manifest in many ways through peers, schoolmates, or even dark web strangers:

Emotional distress during or after the use of the Internet or phone
A heightened level of secrecy or protection of one’s online presence
Increased time spent in one’s room
Withdrawal from family and friends
May stop engaging in school activities.
Falling grades and throwing a tantrum at home
Mood swings, changes in behavior, sleep patterns, or appetite
A sudden desire to stop the use of a computer or device
Showing anxiety or nervousness when receiving messages, texts, or emails
Avoidance of conversations regarding computer and phone activities
Discomfort, anxiety, or fear related to attending school or engaging in physical activity. 
Sudden onset of depression or antisocial behavior
Cyberbullying may lead to comments about suicide or attempts to commit suicide.

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Reasons Children Don’t Inform Their Parents About Becoming Victims of Cyberbullying 

Cyberbullying Internet Computer

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I read a social media thread where a girl was bullied by her female classmates because she was dating a popular guy in her class. The girls scrawled offensive messages on the victim’s school locker and sent her abusive texts and social media posts. 

It is heartbreaking when victims battle psychological problems such as loneliness and humiliation. And it doesn’t end there—despite their anxieties, most bullied children stay mum about the issue.

Fear that nobody will believe them: In many cases, these bullies are the popular kids, well-behaved at school, or socially accepted. So, when they target a victim who often has behavioral problems, is prone to lying, or always gets into trouble, it is natural for the victim to think that no one will believe them. They may be worried that others will think they are lying.

Embarrassment and humiliation: Sometimes, kids get picked on for something they’re already sensitive about – physical appearance. Other times, the abuse comes in the form of someone accusing them of something they didn’t do. For children, this kind of situation makes them feel ashamed and embarrassed. About 31% of teens felt they became victims of cyberbullying because of their looks, 20%  think it was about their race or ethnicity, and 12% said it was about their sexual orientation.

Need for approval: Children often feel they must bear the bullying just to fit in, so they’ll accept it as part of their social life. Cliques are known to use a combination of both bullying and peer pressure.

Fear of becoming a snitch: Snitches get stitches is a common idiomatic term among teens. There is usually a code of silence when it comes to bullying, and as long as that is the case, the bullying will keep going. 

They fear the fallout: When you discover your kid is getting harassed online, the knee-jerk reaction is to jump in and do whatever it takes to protect them, like a helicopter parent. But if you are the kind of person who thrives on solving problems, this could be why your child is reluctant to involve you. Children may be afraid that a parent may create a scene and cause things to escalate.

Don’t want to lose web access: Most kids don’t want to talk about cyberbullying because they’re scared their parents won’t let them use their devices anymore.

Where to notify: Cyberbullying is very prevalent these days. However, children are often unaware of how to report it because cyberbullying is usually anonymous or by people, they do not know. Furthermore, children are uncertain of the consequences of notifying authority figures and do not know where to ask for help.

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What Parents Can Do To Protect And Support Their Children

In a recent study, researchers discovered some forms of social media use that raise the likelihood of psychological issues. 

You can take the following actions to help improve the circumstances when your child is a victim of cyberbullying.

Establish healthy limits on the use of technology: When kids start using digital technology, put controls and permissions in place. This step makes it simpler for kids to stop participating in unsafe or harmful online conversations. Use Applications like Aura for identity theft protection for your family.

Comfort your child: Make sure your kid knows that bullying shows more about the aggressor than it does about the target. You can encourage your child to talk to you about it so they know they’re doing the right thing. Assure your child that you can help them figure it out.

Have an open door of communication: It is a good idea to encourage your child to approach you with inquiries about school relationships and online activities. If your child brings up having their own mobile phone, computer, or social media profile, talk about the rights and responsibilities that come with it.

Don’t engage: Advice your child to resist engaging with the cyberbully. To put it simply, doing so makes things more alarming.

Learn about the things they want: Ask your child what kind of resolution they would like to see. If they experience mental anguish due to a situation they saw online, talk to them and then create a solution with them.

Maintain evidence: Save pictures, copies, and screenshots of the ominous language, images, and conversations. These documents may serve as the evidence you offer to the bully’s guardians, the educational institution, or the police.

Seek support: If your child is on board, seeing a therapist could be beneficial for processing emotions. Another step would be for your child to work with a school counselor or mediator.

Additional Measures To Prevent Future Cyberbullying 

Block the oppressor: You can automatically block emails, messages, or texts from particular people on any device through the settings.

Ban web use: Banning using the web can be a tough call. Many bullied kids check their phones and websites every now and then to see if they’ve got new messages. Ensure your kid’s computer is in a shared place and limit their cell phone and gaming time. You can turn text messaging off during certain hours, and most sites, apps, and phones have parental control options that let you see your kid’s up to online.

Track social media usage: Many programs and apps are available to track their social media profiles and alert parents if they see unacceptable language or images. Some can provide comprehensive reports on browsing habits and tell parents how long the child has spent on each site and how many times they were there. When deciding whether or not to monitor your kids’ devices, it is necessary to consider their age and how they use the web. If you track your child, you should discuss it with them and explain the importance of it.

Learn which websites your youngster visits: This is your opportunity to persuade children and teenagers to instruct you on something they are knowledgeable about. By doing so, you better understand how to keep an eye on your child’s online safety while expressing to them that you have a stake in how they use the privilege.

Configure The Controls And Privacy Settings

Privacy policy, It, Computer

Image by Christoph Meinersmann

You must decide as a parent how your child should interact online and on social media, as well as the safeguards you wish to put in place to keep them safe.

Regardless of the gadget you use, there are plenty of controls to prevent your child from downloading and using specific apps, viewing certain content, or restricting what they may share with people online, such as their location. 

How You Can Report Cyberbullying

Reporting to the social media service provider: Usually, cyberbullying violates the terms of social media sites and internet service providers. If you are a victim, notify them so the social media site can do something about it.

Reporting to law enforcement: Cyberbullying that includes such behaviors is illegal and needs to be officially reported to the police.

Stalking and crimes involving hatred
Threatening behavior,
Taking a picture or recording of someone in a location in which they expect privacy
Child pornography, including sending sexually explicit texts or images

Some states have laws against different types of cyberbullying. For more information, check with law enforcement and your state laws.

Reporting at school: Report incidents to the school. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that often goes hand-in-hand with physical bullying, which can have a negative impact on a school’s learning environment. Several states require schools to handle cyberbullying. Some state statutes cover behavior occurring in a toxic educational setting. 

Schools may act following the law or as per local or institutional rules that permit them to impose punishment or take other measures. Additionally, several jurisdictions have laws that address bullying when it harms academic achievement.

Step Up The Protection: Shield Wall!

By now, you are aware of cyberbullying and the terrible effects it has on children. We hope the information provided here will help you recognize it and learn how to protect your child. Cyberbullying is only one of the many lurking hazards to your child’s safety on the net; others include pornography, drugs, violence, horror, and other content that, with just a little exposure, can interfere with your child’s ability to eat or sleep.

We advise using LifeLock’s Norton Family, which provides parents with the knowledge to keep their loved ones safe online. Furthermore, you can track your child’s mobile devices and stay updated about their whereabouts using programs that provide the location of their devices and a 30-day history of wherever they have been.

Meanwhile, you can also choose Aura’s impeccable services that feature parental controls and capabilities to “pause the internet” on any device. Additionally, Aura has secure gaming controls.

Aura keeps an eye out for indications of cyberbullying, harassment, racism, and grooming in more than 200 well-known online games so that parents can intervene as necessary.

Related: Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Roblox.