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Cyberbullying: What Parents Need to Know

Tracy Strepek, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Cyberbullying occurs when children bully each other through electronic technology.  Cyberbullying is done through emails, texts, chat rooms, web site posts and the transmission of embarrassing or inappropriate photos via cell phones or other electronic devices.  Examples of cyberbullying include: mean or harassing texts, harsh comments of users’ self-photos, and negative comments on personal website postings. 

Cyberbullying is especially harmful because of its anonymity and accessibility.  Cyberbullying can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which makes children especially vulnerable.  Messages and images can be posted and distributed quickly and to a number of people, making cyberbullying very harmful. It can also be difficult to track the offender of cyberbullying because of the user’s ability to delete negative comments or texts just as quickly as they are posted. 

The warning signs that your child is a victim of cyberbullying are similar to those of children being bullied.  These warning signs include, but are not limited to:  frequent stomachaches or headaches, isolation from family and friends, depressed mood, frequent mood changes, disturbance in eating and sleeping patterns, and a drop in grades.  Warning signs specific to cyberbullying include:  your child stops using the computer at home or their cell phone, an anxious response when a text or comment appears on their social media sites, angry or depressed after using electronic devices, and an unwillingness to share with the parent what messages they are receiving via electronic devices. 

Recommendations for parents if you believe your child may be a victim of cyberbullying:

1.    1.) Know what social media sites your child is on and monitor them frequently.  Also monitor texts and emails.  Explain to your child this is for their own, personal safety.

2.) Familiarize yourself with your child’s school policies regarding cyberbullying.  Even if the bullying isn’t happening on school grounds, school personnel are often willing to investigate the matter and provide supportive services at school.

3.) If your child is exhibiting three or more of the above warning signs, consult with your family physician, school counselor, or mental health professional in your community. 

Most important, have open dialogue with your child.  Listen and be empathetic.  Provide directives and offer support in addressing the cyberbullying.