As mobile technology rapidly advances, so does the increasing demand for smartphones and technology among teenagers. At present, most teenagers have at least one kind of handheld device. Not owning one could certainly be considered an oddity. Smartphones helped bridge the gap in global communication, but some parents don’t realize that unlimited access to these devices and their services expose their teenagers to dangerous scenarios like cyberbullying.
According to research collected by Pacer.org, 37% of students experience cyberbullying at some point in their lifetime, and this number more than doubled since 2007. With this newfound knowledge, we cannot stress enough how important it is for parents to monitor their teenager’s behavior to help prevent such situations. As a parent or guardian, keeping track of how your teen’s behavior, even if you find it hard to keep up with all the tech they use, is vital. Doing this puts you in an excellent position to notice any concerning changes.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that happens over digital devices like computers and cellphones and often involves sending, posting, or sharing harmful content about someone else, causing embarrassment or humiliation.
The most common places where cyberbullying occurs include:
- On social media platforms like Facebook
- Through Text Messaging apps
- Through instant messaging and online chatting over the internet
- On online forums and chat rooms
Conventional bullying would only affect the victim’s relationship with the people around them. However, with the prevalence of social media and digital forums, cyberbullying gets more complicated because content shared online can be viewed by acquaintances and strangers on a global scale.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Content shared online creates a kind of permanent public record that could be resurfaced and accessed by schools, employers, or anyone else willing to dig a little deeper. Cyberbullying not only tarnishes the victim’s online reputation but can also ruin other areas of life like college admissions and employment.
Signs of cyberbullying
No one expects a parent/guardian to know every little thing that happens in their teen’s life. The key is balance; provide them with the independence they need as teenagers while keeping an eye out for behavioral changes. Behavioral changes are dependent on an individual’s personality, but if your teenager does any or all of the following, chances are they could be a victim of cyberbullying.
- They delete their current social media accounts
It’s no secret that virtually all teenagers have some social media presence, no matter how small. It would help if you took note of when your teen is suddenly using social media less often. Another red flag you shouldn’t ignore as a parent is when they shut down existing social media accounts.
- They have uncharacteristic mood swings
Another common sign among cyberbullying victims is that they tend to become more withdrawn and lose interest in activities. They may also become angry, anxious, or complain of feeling ill all the time, which are all classic symptoms of onset depression. If their mood swings become too apparent, you might want to check in on them.
- They become more secretive with their devices
Teens are generally private because they like figuring out things independently, but you may want to start investigating if your teen seems more concerned about hiding her or his screen. Your teen may not always be the victim but the instigator of cyberbullying.
- They don’t hang out with friends anymore.
If your teen is suddenly avoiding certain social situations, he or she may be being bullied. It’s difficult to encounter bullies online and face bullies in person.
Helping teenagers handle cyberbullying
Suppose you have reason to believe your teenager might be a victim of cyberbullying. In that case, it’s important to approach them delicately when offering your support. Your teen does not need to open up right away but rather reinforce that you’re there for them. Constant cyberbullying can put your young adult at risk of depression and anxiety, but there are a few initiatives you can take as a parent if they are ever a target.
You should first and foremost start by talking to your child and trying to relate his or her experiences with one of yours. This might help them open up a little so you can get a clear picture of the situation. Unfortunately, your teen may not always be forthcoming, so don’t be afraid to put your foot down and exercise your right to be the administrator of his or her computer or phone.
Depending on the severity of the incidents, you may need to take one or all of the following steps:
- Talk to the parents of the children instigating the bullying and let them know how it’s affecting your own
- Reach out to the school’s guidance counselor or principal. Each school should have anti-cyberbullying measures in place to help curb the situation.
- Finally, if push comes to shove, you may want to get law enforcement involved if neither of the above work. You can save any evidence of the bullying in case you need to show it to the police.
It can be challenging to spot any signs of cyberbullying, especially if you’re always worried about becoming a helicopter parent. If that’s the case, consider creating a space for your teen to communicate what’s going on in their life. If you need to speak to us about a cyberbullying case, please fill out our contact form here.