Back to school isn’t just a return to class. It’s also the time when most bullies decide who they will target during the upcoming school year. Come the end of October, most have decided on their prey. So how to know if your child will be cyberbullied?
Research says that the victims of both in-person and cyber-bullying often possess the following characteristics:
- Weak body language
- Poor social skills
- Few friends
The impact of being cyberbullied
Children who are harassed experience fear, anxiety, insecurity, depression, inability to concentrate in class, lower grades, headaches, stomachaches and nightmares. And that childhood taunting often has long-lasting effects: One study followed up on boys who’d been bullied in grades 6 through 9. In their 20s, those same boys were more depressed and had lower self-esteem than their non-victimized peers.
Surprisingly, however, it turns out that cyberbullying most often takes place between kids and teens who already know each other. One recent study revealed that teen’s current or former friends are seven times more likely to cyberbully them than someone who they have never been friends with or dated before.
5 ways to protect kids from cyberbullies
As parents, there’s a lot we can do to help our children from becoming victims of bullying. Here are top tips to keep kids safe:
- Set Limits on Social Media: A study found that “hyper-networking” teens who spend more than 3 hours per school day on social networks are 110% more likely to be cyberbullied.
- Keep Moving: Kids who participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise per day are statistically less likely to encounter cyberbullying.
- Maintain Family Dinners: Research reveals that four or more family dinners per week can help protect teens not just from being cyberbullied, but from the devastating impact if they are experiencing the issue.
- Keep a Close Eye on Facebook and Instagram: Surprise, it’s not Snapchat. Facebook and Instagram are the social media networks associated with the highest number of cyberbullying incidents for teens.
- Mute, Don’t Block: Have a teen who’s being harassed on YouTube or Twitter? Encourage them to mute the offender, rather than block. Users will know if they’ve been blocked and may try to create a new account to find access to your child. Muting, on the other hand, means they will never know that their harmful messages aren’t reaching your child.
Experts agree that aside from the above, one of the best ways to protect children from cyberbullying is to engage in frequent and consist conversations about their digital lives.