Imagine: a monster is pursuing your child. Its body has no material: sometimes you can see it, some other times you don’t, yet it’s still on ambush on your child. It has many heads, they multiply minute after minute, hour after hour: no matter how many heads you cut down, there are more and more. Its eyes are always open, even when your child is sleeping. The voice is the sum of its thousand heads, and its screams are louder and louder as they multiply. By the way: maybe you are not able to see it, but your child does, night and day.
This is Cyberbullying, and this monster represents how it’s perceived by your children.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a particular form of Bullying that, unlike its traditional version, is perpetrated by online means.
We have three actors here:
- the victim
- the cyberbully
- the observer
While for the traditional bullying these three roles are rigidly defined, they are blurred in the online bullying, so that sometimes they overlap.
Furthermore, while in the traditional bullying the focus of the bully is on the physical harm of the victim, in the online bullying the focus is on the psychological harm.
Humiliation is the ultimate goal, and the observers are the main characters: without them the cyberbullying loses its strength, resulting in a futile gesture.
Another issue is the lack of physical boundaries. The Web has virtual boundaries that rarely coincide with the physical boundaries. And it follows you everywhere...because you take it with yourself everywhere.
Cyberbullying is a never sleeping monster: you never know what happens when your child opens up that device
It’s now clear that the offense of a Cyberbullying action is not in its content per se, but in its viral nature that boosts the social proof.
Our children live an age (about 10-16 years) when the social approval is more important than anything else. It’s the age of the socialization: teens detach from their family and discover there is something more. There is a group... When they live in the group they learn the principles of the social rules. So they demand a group, they need a group, and the group is going to be their second family (or their first family) very soon.
Their Identity is linked to the group.
This is why the effects of the Cyberbullying are so devastating for our kids. Think about it: the whole group, your family, mocks at you, and your self esteem crashes down.
Fortunately our children always ask for help. The matter is they don’t ask as we adult do. The effects of the Online Bullying are the signals we have to be able to recognize:
- unexpectedly stops using their device(s)
- appears nervous or jumpy when using their device(s)
- appears uneasy about going to school or outside
- in general appears to be angry, depressed, or frustrated after going online (including gaming)
- is oversleeping or not sleeping enough
- becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members
- shows increase or decrease in eating
- seems regularly depressed
- makes passing statements about suicide or the meaninglessness of life
- loses interest in the things that mattered most to them
- avoids discussions about what they are doing online
- frequently calls or texts from school requesting to go home ill
- desires to spend much more time with parents rather than peers
- becomes unusually secretive, especially when it comes to online activities
- quickly switches screens or hides their device when you are close by
- uses their device(s) at all hours of the night
- gets unusually upset if they can’t use their device(s)
- laughs excessively while using their device(s) and won’t show you what is so funny
- avoids discussions about what they are doing online
- seems to be using multiple online accounts or an account that is not their own
- is dealing with increased behavioral issues or disciplinary actions at school (or elsewhere)
- appears overly concerned with popularity or continued presence in a particular social circle or status
- demonstrates increasing insensitivity or callousness toward other teens
- starts to hang out with the “wrong” crowd
- demonstrates violent tendencies
- appears overly conceited as to their technological skills and abilities
- is increasingly withdrawn or isolated from the family
First of all you need to know what Cyberbullying is. If Cyberbullying is the Hydra 2.0, your children are the Heroes. No matter how many heads you are able to cut down, there will always more. Unlike the ancient Hydra, this modern monster has no body, so you can’t kill it and win this child internet protection war quickly.
Prevention is the key.
While you are not able to kill the monster, you are able (and you should) to give your little Heroes the right weapons:
- self esteem
- self confidence
- autonomy (about his/her thoughts and emotions)
- self efficacy
- variety of opportunities (so that they understand there is a while World over those little offenses)
And, as for every Myth, the Hero is never left alone and has a whole village supporting him/her. So you should discover this village around you, looking for positive experiences for your children.
Your children use many channels: do you know where they are in this very moment?
Each Hero has his/her own Mentor who follows, suggests, takes care. The Mentor follows the Hero along his proofs, and even when his not close to him, his magic/divine eyes is always upon the Warrior.
As we face our modern Hydra, we can be Mentors for our Children, and we can support them and stay close to them even when we are away.
Parental Control Software play a big and very useful role here. They allow parents to monitor our children online activity and to act as soon as we notice something strange.
Familoop Safeguard alerts you on signs of cyberbullying your child faces, so that you could react.
Dear parents please don’t be misled by your children technological skills and take some time to learn what Cyberbullying is. Acting fast on a smartphone doesn’t mean to be able to get the meaning and consequencies of the actions. The Mentor is never braver nor more weapon skilled than his Hero, but he has something more powerful and useful that the young Warrior is still way too far to achieve: life experiences...
I hope it will be useful. You can follow Familoop’s Parenting Blog for the new child safety tips when mentoring your children and keeping them safe.