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Cyberbullying Is Serious. Here's How You Can Prevent It.

Adult and child holding hands
After a year of socializing and learning online, kids are spending more time on computers and mobile devices than ever before. And while it seems like children are safer at home, all that screen time can leave them open to an increased risk of cyberbullying.

Bullying of any kind is a nightmare for children, but cyberbullying carries a different kind of weight. The perpetrators can hide behind social media under the radar of teachers and parents. Because there's generally less adult interference, it can go on longer. Additionally, children with increased loneliness and anxiety may be online more often, leaving increased opportunities for bullying, the study says.

If you think your kids aren't affected, know that up to 59% of teens reported being cyberbullied, according to a Pew Research study. That can include name-calling, rumormongering, receiving unsolicited explicit photos, harassment, and sharing embarrassing or private photos of them without consent. The study found that girls are more likely to be victimized by one or more of these behaviors than boys.

The very serious implications of cyberbullying, include increased risk of:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Truancy
  • Lower grades
  • Lack of self-worth
  • Trouble sleeping and even bed-wetting
  • Physical symptoms, such as stomach pain and headaches
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harm

Ways to Prevent Cyberbullying

Eradicating cyberbullying requires effort from parents and schools, as well as policymakers. A government site, stopbullying.org, says that parents should normalize the monitoring of their children's online life, including social media activity, passwords and browsing history. It's important to get a read on your child's experience—what happens when you bring up the subject of cyberbullying? There could be clues if your child is reluctant to talk about it or has sudden changes in the frequency of device use. The site also recommends establishing clear rules for online conduct (and consequences if they're not followed).

There are ways to prevent cyberbullying:

  • First, audit your child's online world, lockdown privacy settings and passwords, and consider limiting social media time.
  • Understand how to how to increase home internet security and all your child's devices—don't leave an open opportunity for someone to hack into your child's account and pose as them.
  • Talk with the school to find out if there's an ongoing anti-bullying program, and if it includes cyberbullying and what the mitigation and consequences are in incidents of online abuse.

Be aware of laws around cyberbullying—they vary from state to state and school to school. If you do detect abuse online, document it with screenshots (in case the bully or your child deletes the evidence); report it to the school, the abuser's parents and/or social media platform; and make sure you support your child in the appropriate way, perhaps by connecting with a mental health professional.

If your child is the one doing the bullying, understand that the perpetrators are often kids who have been bullied themselves and don't feel safe at school. It may help to call in a family mental health professional to work on communication strategies and the underlying causes of your child's behavior.

Obviously, it pains us to see our kids get hurt in any way, and we work hard to prevent anything that could harm them. But in the unfortunate situation that your child has been involved in cyberbullying, Westfield has a policy that can help recover costs for the victim of cyberbullying, such as costs for necessary therapy relocation or other expenses associated with cyberbullying. Connect with us to learn more about how to keep your family safe and secure.