Helping Your Child Deal With Social Media Bullying

It's not always easy to know how and when to step in as a parent. Most children today use technology a lot differently. They're able to learn things and gain exposure to topics in an instant. Today’s devices enable children to be connected to the Internet constantly. In fact, their knowledge of the digital world can be intimidating to parents.

However, having some involvement in your children’s cyber world, just as in their real world, can help parents protect them from its dangers. As awareness of social media bullying has grown, it becomes necessary for parents to arm themselves on how to deal with it.

What Is Social Media bullying
Social Media Bullying, or cyberbullying refers to harassment, threatening behaviour or targeting another person specifically. By definition, social media bullying occurs among young people. In the case of adult involvement, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. These are crimes that can have legal consequences and involve jail time.

Social media bullying can be easy to spot — if your child shows you a text, tweet, or response to a status update on Facebook that is harsh, mean, or cruel. Other acts are less obvious, such as impersonating a victim online or posting personal information, photos, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another person.

However, social media bullying may also occur accidentally. The impersonal nature of text messages makes it challenging to detect the sender's tone. One person's humour could be another's a hurtful insult. Nevertheless, a repeated pattern of emails, texts, and online posts is rarely accidental.

Effects of Social Media Bullying
Severe, long-term, or frequent social media bullying can leave both victims and bullies at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders.

The punishment for those who indulge in social media bullying can include being suspended from school or reprimanded by being removed from co-curricular activities. Certain types of social media bullying may even be considered a crime.

Signs of Social Media bullying
Many children who are victims of social media bullying usually don't want to tell a teacher or parent. This may be due to the social stigma attached to it or fear that their social media privileges may be taken away.

Signs of social media bullying vary but may include behaviours such as:

- Being emotionally upset during or after social media interaction

- Being secretive or protective of one's digital life

- Withdrawal from family members, friends, and activities

- "Acting out" in anger

- Changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, or appetite

- Wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone

- Being nervous when getting an instant message, text, or email

How Parents Can Help
If a parent discovers that their child is being bullied over social media platforms, they should offer comfort and support. Talking about any relatable bullying experiences from the parent’s childhood might help as well.

It is important to let the child know that it's not his or her fault and that they are not to blame. Praising the child for doing the right thing by talking to the parent about it also helps. Remind the child that he or she isn't alone and that a lot of people get bullied at some point. Reassuring behaviour will assist in helping the child feel at ease.

Inform authorities at school (the principal, a counsellor or a teacher) about the situation. Many schools have protocols for responding to social media bullying. But before reporting the problem, inform the child about it. This enables the child to feel at ease and comfortable with the action that is being taken.

Also, encourage the child not to respond to social media bullying, because doing so may make the situation worse. But ensure that the threatening messages, pictures, and texts, are kept as these can be used as evidence with the bully's parents, school, employer, or even the police.

By taking the right decisions and making informed choices, parents can ensure that they are well prepared in the case that any such situation should occur.

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