How to Protect Your Child from (Cyber)Bullying

In the past, bullying was seen as a natural part of growing up. For the most part, it was considered a “rite of passage,” something that had to be endured by young people as they left behind the innocence of childhood and adolescence to enter what was supposedly a harsher world inhabited by adults. 

Such was the norm that anything pointing it out as a problem was immediately quashed. In its place was the long-held belief among the elderly that bullying, more than anything, was simply a “normal” part of being a kid.

But recent studies have shed light on the inherent wrongness of this assumption. In fact, far from being a “normal” part of childhood and adolescence, it was found that bullying is in fact a symptom of a greater problem. (Source)

When left unmediated, it can have serious crippling effects on the mental and emotional growth of both the bully and the one being bullied.

Looking After Your Kids' Welfare

The recognition of bullying as a problem gained greater prominence in recent years following the surge of cases where kids have resorted to extreme measures as a way of dealing with bullying. Some of these extreme measures negated self-inflicted harm, with suicide coming across as a real option. (Source)

When not directing their shame and anger upon their own selves, some kids took it upon themselves to direct their rage at others by committing random acts of violence. In fact, the situation had gotten so bad; it necessitated the creation of a number of legislation seeking to promote zero tolerance of any form of bullying.

You Should Start at Home

When it comes to preventing the occurrence or confronting the effects of bullying, much of the responsibility lies in your own hands as a parent.

The foundation of what constitutes acceptable behavior as opposed to something that should not be done begins at home, and any form of behavior that departs from what is considered healthy should be immediately addressed and corrected. There should be a conscious acknowledgement from your end that as the guardian of these kids, you are responsible for their behavior and the manner they treat their peers.

Needless to say, you have a huge role to play in protecting your children from being bullied, or conversely, from being bullies themselves. This responsibility entails not only a keen resolve to remedy tough situations, but also an understanding of the dynamics at work behind such situations.

In other words, getting to the root of the problem is primordial in coming up with feasible solutions. In the absence of such understanding, it would be very difficult to address the issue and put a stop to it.

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The Dynamics of Bullying

Understanding the root causes and forms of bullying (Source) is important in the subsequent task of identifying solutions to the problem. Such knowledge will prove helpful in determining the motivations at work behind the violent and aggressive behavior displayed by bullies.

This will also be invaluable in creating effective strategies in preventing others from being bullied, or else help those who are suffering from it to find ways to put a stop to their suffering.

As with most other things, bullying is often a result of a number of factors that have something to do with family or domestic issues. For instance, when children do not get the kind of affection and warmth that they should be given, some of them direct their rage and frustrations at other people.

This serves as their conduit in expressing their anger toward their family. In the case of bullies, unleashing their pent-up frustrations comes in the form of physical violence or verbal abuse directed at their peers.

It could also be that these bullies live in an environment where violence and aggression are a recurring fact of life. When children see their elders engaging in any of these negative behaviors, they tend to imbibe such a culture and are likely to be unduly influenced as a result.

Lack of parental supervision only serves to aggravate the situation; with no positive authority figure present to correct the situation, these children are stripped of valuable learning opportunities about what is and what is not considered acceptable behavior.

Influenced by Peers

Beyond their homes, most children find validation and acceptance through the peers they choose to hang out with. In fact, the kind of behavior prevalent within their own social circle is likely to be imbibed by these children.

For example, in the company of friends who choose to bully other kids around, one is likelier than others to end up a bully, too. It is also worthwhile to point out these kids’ motivations for acting the way they do.

Are they being violent to preserve the status quo where they are seen to be on top of the social hierarchy? Or do they resort to this kind of behavior as a way of deflecting attention from their own vulnerabilities and weak spots?

The casual and gratuitous depiction of violence in media is also seen as a cause of some children’s aggressive behavior. Whether in movies, television shows, advertisements, or even multimedia games, the laidback way with which themes of violence and power struggle are pursued creates an impression that these are normal in everyday life.

This reinforcement, some say bombardment, of a skewed mindset is further strengthened by the fact that kids these days spend an enormous amount of time as media consumers. Without adequate parental supervision and guidance, children exposed to non-stop violence on media are bound to pick up negative impressions along the way.

And finally, schools with a lax system of applying rules tend to have higher incidences of bullying than schools that have a solid policy framework in dealing with bullies. Children spend a lot of their time at school, so it behooves any school official to ensure that the former are protected against any form of bullying.

Yet a greater percentage of cases of bullying happen at schools, which ultimately begs the question of just how much effort is being undertaken by school administrators to curb the situation.

It is worth noting that bullies thrive in an environment where they see no reason to be afraid, so schools that do little are going to have to deal with a situation far worse than schools that are more proactive in identifying solutions.

Forms of Bullying

So, how do bullies operate?

In general, experts agree that children who assert their dominance over others by bullying resort to any or a combination of any of these mechanisms to get what they want: physical violence, verbal abuse, psychological manipulation, and cyberbullying.

Physical violence occurs when a child is subjected to bodily harm through direct physical contact or an unwanted assault perpetuated by another person, in this case, the bully.

Verbal abuse happens when a child is spoken to using hurtful and insulting language and tone, all of which is meant to make him or her feel degraded and humiliated.

Psychological manipulation comes as a result of playing with a child’s feelings and fears, designed to make him or her feel anxious and unsafe.

And lastly, cyberbullying is a form of bullying that makes use of the Internet and other forms of modern communication to cause harm or distress to others.

How the Bullied Deal with Bullying

When not properly addressed, understand that bullying is a problem that has the potential of causing lifelong effects with profound consequences on one’s standard of living.

Among these effects are emotional imbalance and mental health problems. As a parent, how do you determine if your child is suffering from bullying?

Unfortunately, there are no fast and sure ways to know if your kid is being bullied unless he or she tells you about it. Realize, however, that bullying makes most victims wallow in anguish, shame, and a feeling of helplessness.

These things make it particularly hard for them to open up, which usually results in them trying to keep everything to themselves. The least that you can do is identify some of the usual symptoms of someone suffering from bullying.

These include:

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    Avoidance of social situations. When your child is suddenly withdrawn and does not want to be around people, then it would be worthwhile to ask if there is anything going on rather than assume that this is just one of those "phases" young people go through everyday.
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    Lack of appetite, or conversely, too much of it. When you notice that your child eats far less than usual, this could be a sign that he or she has a problem. Conversely, eating way too much or more than usual may also be considered a red flag.
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    Strong desire to skip school. This is a classic symptom to a host of many problems, so it is important to identify the exact cause of it. Most kids who are being bullied harbor fear that, once they go to school, they will once again be subjected to the abuses and harm perpetuated on them by bullies, hence their desire to skip school. This debilitating fear is very difficult to combat, but it is something that can most definitely be conquered with your help as a parent.
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    Dejection, lack of self-worth, and low self-esteem. A suddenly negative view of, and low regard for, the self are signs that something is wrong, if only because someone who is happy is not going to harbor such a damaged view of his or her self.
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    Lost or destroyed property. When your kid keeps losing stuff or else has way too much of it destroyed, and you know that your kid is not exactly the type prone to these things, then find out what could be causing these things to happen.
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It is important to be cognizant of these things in order for you to be able to immediately address the issue that ails your child.

The earlier the problem is detected, the better the opportunity it gives you and your child to address the problem and ensure as little damage as possible. These little cries for help should never be disregarded, as they could serve as hints to something troubling.

Forging Solutions to Deal with Bullying

In finding a solution to the problem of bullying, keep these things in mind:

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    Take time to listen. Do not force your child to spill the full details of what is going on, as this will only serve to cause greater anxiety and despair. Try a different tactic that will allow your kid to be able to tell the whole story without fear of seeing an agitated parent and without the fear of being subjected yet again to the abuses of the bully. Keep your cool and maintain an air of understanding and sympathy.
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    Get to the root of the problem. Identify when the problem began, how frequently it has been happening, and what has been done to address it. Know who the supposed bully is and take note of the things he or she does to your kid.
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    Be empathic. Let your kid know that you are there to help him or her get through the situation. Be receptive, not threatening in a way that would cause your child to become afraid of talking.
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    Lay out the options on the table with your child. In creating solutions to the bullying problem, engage your kid to be part of it. Do not impose solutions as if these were instructions that need to be followed to the letter. Ask your child what he or she thinks would be the best approach to put a stop to the problem, and build up from there. Be the facilitator of the conversation.
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    Promote nonviolence. Do not be the purveyor of the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" kind of mentality, as this will only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence and aggression that you have been trying to combat in the first place. Instead, promote open-mindedness and understanding without compromising your child's own safety.
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    Talk to the right people. Allot time for the kids to sort out the trouble among themselves, but if the problem continues to persist, then you have to escalate the issue to the proper desks. Start with the school principal. Have a conversation with the bully's parents and express how much trouble their kid has been giving yours and how you resent every part of it.

Be actively involved in finding a solution to the problem. Let your child know that there is no way you will tolerate any incidence of bullying.

Not only will this let your child feel secure knowing you are there for support, but this will also send a strong message that your kid should learn to stand up for himself or herself, particularly in tough situations.

The Rise of Cyberbullying

The Internet has provided humans with a lot of wonderful benefits. In this day and age, it is very difficult, if not simply unthinkable at all, to live and work without any Internet connection.

In fact, much of today’s knowledge-based economy is heavily reliant on the expansive network of communication and data provided by the World Wide Web, without which the world as we know it would not exist.

Through the Internet, geographical borders have been rendered negligible. Who needs to fly out when, with a few clicks, you can talk to someone half a world away in a matter of seconds?

Such ease and convenience of use are verily the hallmarks that make the Internet the platform of choice by many.

But despite its obvious advantages, the Internet also poses risks when it is abused and taken advantage of to cause hurt or harm to other people.

When the free and tumbling world of the Internet, as well as other forms of modern communication such as SMS and chat, are used to bully others, such an act becomes known as cyberbullying.

Democratization of Technology (Among others)

Incidences of cyberbullying have been on the rise in the past few years. This can be attributed to a lot of factors.

One, the democratization of technology means that more and more people, particularly the younger ones, now have greater access to the services afforded by mobile phones and online social networks.

Two, limited regulation on how data is transmitted makes it easy for people to malign others, fully cognizant of the fact that the chances of getting kicked off the networks are slim to none.

Three, the sense of anonymity that the Internet provides to its users serves as a means for others to launch vitriol on the web without much fear of being identified for who they really are.

Much like traditional bullying at schools or other offline venues, cyberbullying can also cause a great amount of distress for those who are victimized by it. The worst part about it is that the act of bullying is no longer contained between the people involved.

Rather, due in large part to the viral and social nature of the Internet, one’s embarrassments and humiliations can now be viewed by people anywhere in the world.

Consequently, this causes far greater anxiety and creates a sort of permanence to emotional scars, given that anything uploaded on the Internet remains there forever. How then can cyberbullying be prevented or else dealt with?

Here are a few things to bear in mind:

1 – Decide if it is absolutely necessary for your kids to own a mobile phone.

While it is easy to raise the excuse that a mobile phone comes in handy during an emergency situation, in most cases having one serves more as a luxury rather than a necessity. However, it is important to put things in perspective.

Kids these days are part of a generation whose lives are inextricably linked to the Internet and mobile technology, hence their collective tag as digital natives. They live and breathe technology.

As a parent, you should be open to the current dynamics of social interaction and be smart at assessing the importance of giving your kids their own mobile phones. At the very least, you can give them a heads up of what the phone is for, or customize their network plan as you see fit.

2 – Regulate Internet use at home.

Create a set of feasible and reasonable guidelines outlining what they can or cannot do online. You can also impose a regular schedule as to when they will be granted access to the computer. The key is to foster discipline and set expectations about their behavior.

3 – Install software that will enable you to monitor your children’s Internet use.

Turning on the computer firewall is an effective way for you to filter which sites can be accessed or not so you do not have to sneak behind your kids’ backs to know what they are doing when they are in front of the computer.

4 – Be mindful of your kids‘ behavior.

The symptoms of being bullied outside of the home have already been adequately discussed. It would be worthwhile to keep them in mind because some of these are actually the same symptoms for cyber bullying.

When children are being bullied online or via mobile phones, it causes varying degrees of anxiety on their end that forces them either to retreat in some imaginary corner or become more prone to violent outbursts.

Make sure to be attentive to your child’s subtle calls for help, if there ever is one. Keep your eyes open to any behavior that indicates a drastic departure from the usual.

5 – Be involved in finding a workable solution to the situation.

If your children open up about being cyberbullied, initiate steps on how to address the issue head on. Listen and take mental notes. Engage them to provide details of the bullying incidences.

Ask them how they feel and what they have done so far to stop being bullied. Be receptive without being too pushy.

After listening to their side, provide your honest assessment of the situation, what you think should be done, and how these things are supposed to be done. Take into special account everything that has been said and build a solution upon it.

6 – Be familiar with what your kids use to communicate with their peers.

It would do well for you to be familiar with the gadgets and devices that your children use to communicate with their peers because, far too often, it is difficult to assert authority over something that you have little knowledge of.

7 – Stay on top of the situation.

In cases where your children have opened up about being a victim of cyberbullying, make sure that you gather evidence to prove such an assertion.

Check the communication logs on the computer, take note of the time, print-screen messages, and know the right people to contact, such as local authorities or the school principal.

solutions to cyberbullying

Keeping a Proactive Stance against Any Form of Bullying

As a parent, it behooves you to remain on top of the situation when it comes to the probability of your child being bullied. Take precautionary measures to ensure that there is a system in place if something happens.

It is also equally important to teach your kid the right attitude and mindset, as well as effective strategies, in dealing with and combatting any form of bullying. On this end, here are a number of things to bear in mind:

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Be familiar with existing legislation against bullying. There are laws that exist to curb, or else provide a way to deal with, incidences of bullying. These vary by state, so grab a copy of the law in your state and understand its provisions. Know what is provided for by law to guide you in your decisions.

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Check if there is an anti-bullying program in place at your kid’s school. It is very important to know as a parent that your kid, as well as other children, is taken care of at their school.

Talk to the principal or the guidance counselor to find out what mechanisms are being used to identify, curb, and address cases of bullying within the campus premises. Talk with other parents on the same subject and discuss ways and means needed to solve incidences of bullying.

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Teach your kid how to deal with bullies. Let your kid know that there are many ways to deal with bullies, but getting even and stooping down to their level is not one of them. There should be recognition from your kid’s end that the bully who resorts to violent and aggressive tactics to get what he or she wants is someone who needs help.

The various reasons and motivations that push bullies to do what they do have been discussed in the previous chapters. In assessing any situation that involves bullying, know that the bully needs as much help as the one being bullied.

It is necessary to understand what the bully is going through at home or with his friends to ascertain the real cause of his behavior, and thereafter to provide a tailor-fit solution to finally put a stop to it.

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Share your experiences with your kid. Sometimes it is better to provide concrete examples to your child as a way of emphasizing important values.

Relaying cases of how you yourself were subjected to bullying when you were younger and what you did to overcome such a situation will provide depth and context to what you preach to your kid. Positive stories like these also serve as great learning opportunities for your kid to pick up insights from and be inspired with.

how to deal with cyber bullying

Indeed, in creating safeguards (more information) that will protect your kid from being bullied or cyberbullied, it is imperative that you stay in control of the situation.

It is equally important to teach your child that bullying is something that can be resolved and is definitely not something that should hinder him or her from living a safe and happy life.

As a parent, it is crucial that you serve as a guide and as a protector against any form of bullying directed at your kid. The faster you nip such cases in the bud, the better.

Conclusion

We hope this post was able to help you better understand the dynamics of bullying as a means to create a more solid system meant to protect your kids from its debilitating effects.

The next step is to continue to take on a more proactive role in ensuring that you stand by your kids as they grow in order to prevent them from being bullied, or else help them in finding a solution for it. Keep lines of communication open between you and your children, and never let up on recognizing signs of distress among them.

Have zero tolerance for bullying. Realize that if you and your children forge a healthy and honest partnership, it becomes easier to manage incidences like these and come up with lasting solutions.

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