For many parents, it is a terrible daily occurrence to watch their child go through this.
For others who haven't yet had this happen at home, let me give you some of the basics to watch out for.
Think back to the moment you held your precious little cherub for the first time.
That sweet, pure, innocent little face. We want to give them the most beautiful life, the most precious experiences, and to feel love all the time.
The sad reality is as they grow we can't keep them in that beautiful cocoon of love and safety. They go to school, they make friends, they go to friends' houses, they hear the radio, they see the news, the outside influences may change them......and may even break them.
There are many of us now. The parents of children who have been cyberbullied. Something that was just not happening when I was at school, maybe even when you were at school, is commonplace now. I remember being bullied at school, however, I knew as soon as I left those school gates I was safe at home with my family. These days the bullying simply does not turn off.
I remember saying I would never let my child have social media so it couldn't happen to them. The issue we had, however, was that all the other children had it and would plan things to happen to her the next morning. She was walking in blind to what was about to happen to her. In the end, I gave in and let her get one of what I felt was the safest forms so she could at least communicate with a couple of friends who would let her know if something had been planned. Oh and by the way - this was in primary school......
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is relentless, intentional bullying that happens constantly via electronic devices, intending to harass, threaten or embarrass the recipient. This means it may come via social media such as:
- Gaming console chats
- or other means
It is definitely something that can sneak up on even the most informed parents.
Cyberbullying was definitely not something I ever thought I would need to deal with, however it is a very real issue.
How can it affect our children?
As parents, if we are lucky our children will tell us straight away and seek our support. However, often they don't. Cyberbullying can leave them:
- Isolated and alienated
- Physically unwell
- Unable to talk to others
- With feelings of helplessness
- With poor academic achievements
- Contemplating self-harm or worse - and you only need to look for articles on cyberbullying to see that sadly, the worst has happened in some instances.
What can we do as parents?
Don't delete the messages straight away! Keep copies of them yourself, then remove them from your child's device. You may need to use the copies as evidence.
Tread carefully with your children so you don't break that trust, however, you do need to talk to someone and seek help. Maybe speak to the school to make them aware of the situation. Talk to anyone, even the police if necessary, to seek assistance.
Encourage your child to confide further in you without pushing them - let it happen naturally. Speak to them about the good people in their lives, the good friends, and work to bring back that self-esteem. Of course, always seek professional help if you feel you - and they - need it immediately.
Ensure that any abuse on social media is reported via the functions of the platform - after you have taken copies.
Finally, the Australian Government has amazing resources available to you. Click here if you need some help with any aspect of cyberbullying.
Just know, that it is possible to navigate through it. We have spent years doing just that with both traditional bullying and cyberbullying, and whilst it was never easy, and it was often heartbreaking and frightening, if you stick together, support each other, and seek assistance, it is possible to push through.
THE RIVER OF DREAMS
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