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How to Watch for Cyberbullying

Some quick facts about cyberbullying, according to PREVNET, Canada’s authority when it comes to research and resources for bullying prevention: 25% of Canadian kids admit to taking part in cyberbullying, one in three admit to being cyberbullied, and nearly half of Canadian youth in distress report involvement in cyberbullying.

When it comes to dealing with cyberbullying, the first rule for a parent is: don’t panic. Bullying may have evolved a bit since you were in school, but the same basic rules still apply. When you talk to your child about how they should treat people and what good manners are, it’s worthwhile to mention what these things mean when your child is online. It’s important to foster good communication with your child, so they know they can come to you with problems. And your child should know what cyberbullying is and how to report it.

But let’s say you’ve done all that and you’re unsure that your child—or indeed, your teenager—will come to you if they’re cyberbullied. Or worse, if they’re the one doing the cyberbullying. Here are a few signs to watch and what to do if you suspect cyberbullying is happening.

Signs Your Child May Be a Victim of Cyberbullying

  • Gets nervous when receiving a text or email
  • Refuses to discuss their online activity
  • Abruptly shutting down or stepping away from the computer mid-use
  • Withdrawing from family and friends in real life
  • Trouble sleeping at night
  • Uneasy about attending school or other activities
  • Pretends to be sick
  • Unexplained anger or depression
  • Unexplained stomach aches or headaches 
  • Stops going online completely
  • Takes extra steps to hide phone and online activity
  • Avoids social interactions
  • Undergoes abrupt behaviour changes 
  • Suicidal thoughts

Signs Your Child May Be Engaged in Cyberbullying

  • Abruptly switches off or closes screens when you enter the room
  • Uses a computer, tablet, or phone at all hours of the day
  • Browses the web in a private browsing mode
  • Creates multiple social network accounts under other names
  • Refuses to discuss what they’re doing online

3 Steps to Talking to Your Child About Cyberbullying

Initiate a Discussion

If you’ve seen a few of the signs of cyber bullying, it’s time to gather all the facts. Be gentle but firm, and say something like: “I’ve noticed XYZ. What’s going on?” That’s it. You don’t need to grill or interrogate your child. In fact, they’ll probably withhold details if you go with that approach.

Keep Cool

If you maintain a calm tone, your child will open up to you more. Nobody likes sharing embarrassing situations, least of all children and teenagers, so your non-judgemental tone will help. No matter whether your child is being cyberbullied, the one doing the cyberbullying, or both, calmly confront them with your evidence.

Keep an Open Mind

It may take some time for the whole story to emerge from what your child tells you. The best way to make that happen is to not interrupt them too much and not to make assumptions about what happened. If your child feels like you aren’t listening to them, they might get defensive. Then you’ll never get the whole story.

The Bottom Line

Short of installing child-monitoring software on your child’s smartphone and computer, the way to detect cyberbullying is to keep an eye on your child’s behaviour and watch for the above signs of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is something all parents need to be aware of; if you need more resources, know that lots are available on PREVNet.