More than 20 young people took their lives due to cyberbullying in 2017, and many more attempted suicide. The Philadelphia Tribune shared that 20% of children think about suicide after experiencing cyberbullying and one in 10 attempt it, according to data from CyberBully Hotline.
The number of youth experiencing cyberbullying is startling. According to the Pew Research Center, one-third of all teenagers who use the internet have been the target of abusive online behavior — receiving threatening messages, nonconsensual forwarding of private emails or text messages, rumors being spread about them, and nonconsensual sharing of embarrassing photos. Today, cyberbullying is not just a threat to teenagers, with at least 15% of all children experiencing it.
As we hear of more incidents, we learn that in most cases parents were unaware their child was a victim of cyberbullying or the extent of the abuse. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, only 52% of students who experience cyberbullying report the incident to a parent or other adult.
Cyberbullying can have devastating effects, so it’s imperative parents learn to recognize the signs their child may be experiencing online abuse:
- Changes device screen, closes apps, or hides device when adult enters room.
- Jumpy when receiving notifications or in general around their devices.
- Becomes unusually upset when cannot use devices.
- Constantly checks devices.
- Uses devices at all hours.
- Stops using devices.
- Changes in behavior or moods.
- Decreased or increased appetite.
- Trouble sleeping or frequent nightmares.
- Increased school absences or uneasiness to attend.
- Decline in grades or interest in school.
- Avoidance of social activities and situations.
- Loss or changes in friendships.
- Decrease in self-esteem.
Some of the above signs may indicate other challenges, including in-person bullying, or mental or emotional health issues. If your child is exhibiting any of the signs, initiate an open, comfortable conversation to understand what may be happening. Remember that your child may not want to discuss it with you, and may be afraid of blame or having electronic devices removed. Show support, and discuss the options for handling the situation. It also may be helpful to provide your child with counseling, if necessary.
If your child is experiencing online abuse, you don’t have to face it alone. Reach out to one of the organizations helping parents address cyberbullying:
The Cybersmile Foundation Global Support Service
Cyberbullying is common and on the rise. Help your child stay safe by recognizing the signs and addressing challenges with online abuse as soon as they happen. Consider using a Digital Citizen Pledge as a guide to discuss cyberbullying and cyber-safety, too.