Cyberbullying is a dangerous, even life-threatening issue, especially among teenagers and the results can make a child feel sad, helpless and depressed and at times, suicidal. Many affected by cyberbullying say that it is worse than face-to-face bullying, says Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.
To help parents distinguish the common teenage difficulties from the red flags of cyberbullying, we have prepared a list of symptoms that can help moms and dads recognize whether their offspring is being (cyber)bullied:
Snappy answers and moods swings
Frequent moods swings don’t necessarily mean that child is being bothered by his or her peers. However, if these are accompanied by jumpy and nervous reactions to common questions, especially after disconnecting from the virtual world, it is time to ask if they are having any trouble.
Parents should not be satisfied with “good” and “fine” Sometimes you have to dig deeper to find out how your child really feels about his/her experience online and such short responses are another common denominator for many cases of cyberbullying.
Deleted social network account
If your child suddenly quits one of its favorite social networks, be aware. In an age where young people invest significant time and energy into virtual reality and social networks, deleting an account might be a signal that something serious is going on in their lives. Parental control tools installed on child’s devices give parents a good overview of which apps he/she prefers and frequently uses.
Withdrawing from friends and family in real life
It is only natural that teenagers are trying to become more independent from their parents and thus devote more time into building their own network of friends. Yet, if they distance themselves from the latter, hide from the outside world in their rooms and avoid social media as well as their devices, something is amiss.
Dramatic physical changes
Has your child suddenly lost weight? Does he/she have trouble sleeping during the night? Again, this might be a sign of many things, but if combined with some of the aforementioned points, there is a good chance they are being bullied either offline or online.
Pretending to be sick trying and to avoid school
“I don’t feel so good. My tummy hurts. Can I skip school today?” Almost every child uses these excuses from time to time. Be it a test he/she is not prepared for or just a difficult day at school, it is common that they try to avoid it. However, if your child pretends to be ill too often, there might a more serious issue behind it.
Other indirect signs
Have your children gone from happy and positive to sad and anxious? Does he or she show signs of depression? If your son or daughter appears upset after using the computer, being online or after viewing a text message on a cell phone, it is a strong indicator that he/she is a victim of cyberbullying.
What should you as a parent do?
First and foremost, talk to your children. Let them know you care about them and are there to help. Also, never underestimate the threat cyberbullying poses for the health of your child and always take action. If possible, document the cyberbully’s messages or posts and use them as evidence of his/her actions. Use reliable parental control solution that gives you a good overview of what your son or daughter is up to when online and helps you to spot problems when they arise.
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