Parenting

Cyberbullying: Protecting Our Youth in the Digital Age

By: Rachel Chen

Digital technology has become an integral medium through which young people can communicate and connect with others.

However, these platforms can also be used to inflict psychological harm on others. Cyberbullying is bullying that is carried out via electronic means and may include sending hurtful or threatening messages to someone, or spreading embarrassing photos or videos on social media. It is deliberate and repeated, and victims often feel powerless.

How does it affect adolescent’s mental health?

Victims of cyberbullying often display higher rates of anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem. Studies have found that victims are much more likely to display suicidal ideation that non-victimised individuals. Other behaviours we may see include skipping or avoiding school, changes in their sleep patterns, being more secretive about their phone use, becoming more withdrawn, doing more poorly in school work, and sometimes even turning to drugs or alcohol to deal with the negative feelings. Some researchers propose that victims within the cyberspace potentially suffer worse outcomes than victims of face-to-face bullying due to the pervasiveness of technology and feeling like there is nowhere to escape.

What is an effective response to cyberbullying?

It is possible that our children may not want to tell us that they are being bullied because they feel embarrassed, or worry that they will lose internet or device privileges. If you suspect that your child is being cyberbullied, here are some ways to support them:

  • Talk to them in a calm and open manner. It is important that our children feel like they can come to usyou with anything and that weyou will not get upset, angry, anxious, or judgemental.
  • Gauge the situation. Is it bullying? If they are being hurt deliberately and repetitively, this is bullying. If they are being teased in a friendly way, or have been hurt by accident, this is not bullying.
  • Document the evidence. Evidence such as screenshots including date and times can be valuable when reporting cyberbullying.
  • Report the content. Most online services, gaming and social media companies are obligated to keep their users safe and have simple processes to report harmful content. You can also report content to Australia’s regulator for online safety
  • Prevent further contact. Advise your child not to retaliate or engage with the perpetrator as this often exacerbates the situation. Instead, encourage them to mute or block the perpetrator and adjust their privacy settings to limit engagement opportunities.
  • Seek help from your child’s school. Most schools take any form of bullying very seriously and will take action against it. Talking to the school counsellor or a trusted teacher can be a helpful way to seek support.

Empower your child and encourage healthy coping strategies.  Instead of telling our children what to do, try to build their confidence by encouraging them to make wise decisions for themselves. Encourage them to keep engaging with their interests and hobbies and spend time with friends and family.

Seek professional support. If your child is struggling to talk to you about cyberbullying, reach out for professional support. Our team of highly skilled and well-experienced Psychologists are here to help. Reach out today to book an intake.

Some helpful links


Article supplied with thanks to The Centre for Effective Living.

Feature image: Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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