Teen looking sadly at her phone.

Cyberbullying 2021: How to Tell If Your Child is Being Bullied Online and What to Do About It

by Screen Time Team on 27/01/2021

Overview: In a recent survey, 73 percent of responders reported that they have been bullied online. In many cases, behavioral changes can signal that a child may be a victim. Parents should talk to their children about their social lives, establish family internet rules, be sure their children know what to do when bullying occurs, and consider parental control software to help keep them in the know.  

How Common Is Cyberbullying?

Dealing with a bully is part of growing up. There are always going to be people we have to learn how to deal with. Yet cyberbullying is different from a playground dust-up. Its effects can be more severe, in part because when something hurtful is posted online, it has the potential to be seen by a vast audience. 

We need to remember that bullying is subjective, however. We all have a different perspective on events, and that can sometimes lead to wounded feelings and offense given where it wasn’t intended. For that matter, the first time you stood up for yourself, you may have discovered that suddenly, in the eyes of the bully, you were the bad guy! 

In other words, parents should take care not to overreact to a single event. Instead, talk to your child and look for behavioral changes that might signal a real problem.

That said, there’s no denying that cyberbullying is an ongoing problem. In one survey, 73 percent of respondents said they’d been the target of some form of bullying, and 32 percent said they had bullied someone else. In a world where 95 percent of teens are connected to the internet, and 85 percent of that group have at least one social media account, it’s clear that online bullying is commonplace.

Unless you’re peeking over your children’s shoulders, though, bullying is hard to detect. Unlike the scuffs and bruises of real-world misbehavior, most cyberbullying takes the form of rude comments, cruel messages, and other forms of abuse. So, how can you tell if your teen is being bullied?

Signs of Cyberbullying

Teen looking at her phone.

They’re unusually moody, upset, or touchy: Transitioning from childhood to adulthood is a rocky road, even for the most well-adjusted and emotionally mature teenager, so don’t take one outburst as a sign of bullying. Keep an eye out instead for a consistent pattern, especially just after or before using a computer or logging on to a social media site.

Their internet usage changes: Teens lose interest in video games, social media platforms, and the like all the time. Many of them are fads, or their friends lose interest and it stops being fun. Look instead for sessions ending abruptly, sudden outbursts while playing a game or using a site, or mood changes afterward. If they’re hiding certain interactions from you, that may be a particular warning sign.

Their longer-term behavior changes: Again, kids are going to be kids; they’ll have moody periods, angry periods, fallout with people they swore they would be friends forever with, and so on. Yet if they withdraw from interacting with other people, stop extracurricular activities that they used to enjoy, have new or unusual problems with school, or show dramatic changes otherwise, that should draw attention.

We should remember that when we go through a bad time, we tend to follow the same patterns. A relationship ending, seeing something disturbing online, or a spate of cyberbullying might have similar emotional arcs. 

How Parents Can Help with Cyberbullying

  • Teach your child how to handle online bullies, or “haters.”
  • Make sure they know they can sit down with you to talk through problems and concerns.
  • Learn how to block and report bullies on social platforms, and make sure your kids can do the same.
  • Document bullying when you report it, especially if it’s somebody your family knows.
  • Set family rules for internet usage that kids need to stick by, helping them keep away from bullying.
  • Use parental control software to limit internet time, and block apps that don’t filter for bullying.

Keeping a lid on cyberbullies can be tough, but parental control software like Screen Time can help. To learn more about Screen Time, try it for free!

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