It’s incredibly positive that children now can have a greater level of interaction outside of the school environment but what about when it’s not just friends talking to each other? How do you know if they’re being cyberbullied? What happens when a disagreement with someone at school carries on in the evenings and weekends? Or when childish behaviour like name calling and rumours can’t be escaped even outside of the school gates?
While we try to teach children to open up to their parents and teachers about any form of bullying, many of them still don’t reach out and ask for help, so you need to know what signs to look out for that signal a child might be a victim of cyberbullying.
Many of the signs of cyberbullying are the same as traditional bullying, these include:
- Frequent headaches, stomach aches or reasons to not want to go to school
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Declining grades and interest in school activities
- Sudden loss of friends and avoiding social situations
- Depression, anxiety and low self esteem
- Making negative comments about school environment e.g. “I have no friends”, “there’s lots of drama at school”
However, there are some signs specific to cyberbullying to look out for, including:
- Suddenly change in device habits – either using them much more or much less
- Not wanting to use devices where you can see
- Hiding/changing device screen when you can see it
- Seeming nervous or jumpy when there’s a notification or message on their device
- Getting angry, irritable, or upset after using devices
- Avoiding discussions about online activity
- Abruptly shutting off devices mid-use
Cyberbullying has become such a prevalent issue in our society partly because of the distance technology allows bullies to put between themselves and their victims. Bullies have become much more aggressive and abusive since they do not have to say anything to the victim’s face. Some bullies have even gone as far as creating fake accounts that their family members cannot see so that they can continue to harass their victims without consequences. CAP’s new technology aims to eliminate this element of cyberbullying by only allowing children to communicate with accounts verified by the local authority – this means that a child can only use one account to talk to other children and can no longer hide their bullying from family and friends. CAP also discourages cyberbullying amongst children using verified accounts as they know that their digital accounts are linked directly to them making them more accountable for their actions.
If you think a child in your care is being cyberbullied, it’s important that you talk to them about it and try to help them resolve the issues. Bullying in any form can have serious long lasting effects on a child’s mental health and wellbeing – for advice about dealing with these situations, check out the resources on Bullying UK or NSPCC.