Cyberbullying: how to spot it and how to prevent it

A recent study by CyberSafeKids revealed that over a quarter of Irish children aged between 8 and 12 have experienced cyberbullying, with girls being the main target of harassment.

The accessibility of social media has lead to a revolution in communication over the past decade or more. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, X, and TikTok have democratised the global community like no other technologies before them.

Sadly, this society-shaping technology is not without its negative impacts, and one particularly horrifying development has been the ease at which cyberbullying can occur – especially in the lives of children.

Cyberbullying, as most of you will already know, is a form of bullying that takes place via digital mediums such as social media. Whereas bullying was once confined to school yards or the workplace, now it can take place anywhere a smart phone or laptop can connect to WiFi. The inescapable nature of this kind of harm is particularly disturbing to those who are being cyberbullied.

CyberSafeKids, an organisation who have set out to make the online world safer for children, revealed in a recent study that 25% of Irish children aged between 8 and 12 reported being cyberbullied. Girls were also more likely to be cyberbullied (43%), but boys are also unfairly targeted in this way (30%).

With mental health being as important as it is, especially in today’s age, the identification and prevention of cyberbullying is paramount. Here are a few ways that you, as a parent, can identify cyberbullying and prevent it from happening.

Social Media bullying

This can take place on social media pages both publicly and privately. Mean comments posted under a photo or status are easy to spot, however some mean-spirited messages will be sent privately via the Instant Messaging features found on virtually all social media platforms.

Flaming

Flaming is a form of group bullying where a victim is picked on via a group chat messaging feature. This can include popular chat platforms such as Discord or Facebook’s Group Chat feature.

Photo/meme Sharing

Sometimes cyberbullies will take photos of their victim from the victim’s personal albums or even through pressure via Instant Messaging. They will then share this image widely, mocking their victim and inviting others to join in. This can be especiall dangerous if the bully has included personal details regarding the victim.

Doxxing

Doxxing is a form of cyberbullying where the bully shares private details of their victim online, such a their phone number, e-mail, or home address, opening up the victim to further harassment and potentially dangerous situations.

How to prevent cyberbullying;

  • Discuss the issue of cyberbullying with your children. Ask them if they have ever been victims of cyberbullying and listen to them carefully and non-judgementally.
  • Look for the telltale signs of cyberbullying in the mannerisms of your children. Are they more anxious, withdrawn, or depressed? Ask them if something or someone is making them withdraw from activities or social circles they would normally enjoy.
  • Teach your children how to block people who are bullying them online, and how to report bullying on social media platforms.
  • For younger children especially, be very cautious regarding their use of technology and how much time they spend online.
  • Teach them the importance of safeguarding their personal details and passwords online.
  • Listen to them and speak frankly about the issue of cyberbullying to ensure they know that they do not have to face it alone.
  • Offer counselling or mental health resources to those who have been bullied online. One such resource can be found at TackleBullying.ie.

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