As a parent, one of the biggest fears is having our kids bullied at school and due to the ever-growing digitally connected world, kids unfortunately, can no longer leave bullies on the playground. Cyberbullying is not new, it has been around long before Myspace was a ‘thing’ and Tamagotchis were the latest gadget. Cyberbullying allows individuals to hurl insults towards their victims, all while sitting safely behind the comfort of their screen – more often than not, using a pseudo account to remain anonymous.
A 2020 cyberbullying survey conducted by Ditch the Label, found that out of 12,387 students, 27% have described their bullying experiences as cyberbullying. While nearly one in five (19%) of the students between the ages of 10 and 15 experienced cyberbullying – that’s 762,000 students in the UK alone. 77% of the children in the study stated that they suffered severe mental health issues as a result.
What does cyberbullying look like?
It’s important for us to understand and know what signs to look out for. Therefore, here are a few ways in which children or teenagers may be exposed to cyberbullying:
- Name-calling & humiliation
- Exclusion from groups or activities (online this can look like various individuals making fun of a child taking part in a TikTok challenge, for example)
- Nasty private messages and DM’s
- Rumours (they spread like wildfire when shared online)
- Photoshopping pictures of each other and sharing them with their peers
How to tell if a child is being cyberbullied?
In most cases, a child will often not tell their parents, guardians or teachers about the events for fear of making their situation worse. According to an article published by Understood.org, here are a few telltale signs a child may be suffering from online harassment:
- They suddenly stop using their phones or laptops when they used to spend a lot of time on them
- They turn off their device screens or turn them away from you when you’re in the vicinity
- They don’t use their devices in a place where you can see them
- They use phrases like “there’s a lot of drama at school” or “I have no friends” which can be an indirect way of saying “I’m being bullied”
- They get nervous when they receive a text or social app notification
- They don’t want to go to school
- They become withdrawn.
If you notice any of the above signs, it’s time to sit down and have a calm, supportive conversation with them. Express your concerns and that you are there to help them through anything without judgement or anger. Hopefully, this will help them to feel comfortable enough to open up. Alternatively, speaking to their teachers or seeking the help of a professional may be in order.
What to do if a child is being cyberbullied?
It’s understandable that as a caregiver, your protective instincts kick in and one may be tempted to react in anger, but try to remember that being a good role model (especially in this situation), will benefit your child both long and short term. Here are some steps you can take:
- Speak to the parents of the bully and involve your child’s school in these discussions. In many cases, schools have established ways in which to deal with bullying. It is important to remember that no child is born a bully, and often is a symptom of their own trauma.
- It may be a good idea to have the child see a professional therapist or school counsellor to help them deal with their experienced trauma.
- If a child is being bullied by strangers on social apps like Instagram and TikTok, help them to first go through their follower list and block all the culprits. Secondly, ensure that their privacy settings are up to scratch so that strangers cannot see or interact with what they’re posting. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on what children are posting and how their followers are interacting with them in the comments section.
- If the above steps still do not work and the bullying has increased, it may be time to get the authorities involved. Screenshot and print-out evidence of the bullying to show to the police.
- Lastly, make sure that the child in question feels love and support from you, close friends and family. Keep communication open without being too overbearing. You want children to trust the adults in their lives enough to tell them if anything like this ever happens again in future.
How does YEO help to prevent cyberbullying?
With various messaging apps, kids are spoilt for choice when it comes to online communication. However, not all apps are created with the mission to stop cyberbullying in their tracks. Here’s why YEO’s features prevent cyberbullying:
- YEO uses biometric face authentication and live photo sign up so you know the person you are communicating with online is who they say they are. No loopholes.
- We have a strict ‘no screenshot’ policy. On Android, screenshots are disabled completely however on iOS due to restrictions with Apple’s Policies we have a feature that not only informs you when a screenshot has been taken but also deletes the entire thread.
- We are implementing a report button that will enable our users to inform us of any suspicious users or nefarious activity. We encourage our users to email us in the meantime if such instances occur so we can handle these situations accordingly.
- Delete and block contacts. If someone is in any way harassing or making one of our users uncomfortable, they can simply delete them from their contact list as well as block them so they can’t reach them on YEO again.
Here are a few other resources to check out:
- www.safetonet.com & https://wellbeing.safetonet.com/
It’s important to remember that in a world where we can communicate with one another on various platforms, we have to be responsible when it comes to children navigating the online world. YEO strives to keep all our users safe from cyberbullying and malicious messages – in fact, it is one of the main reasons we created the app. With privacy comes responsibility and trust and we are here to enforce it.
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