Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied? Here’s What You Can Do to Fight Back

 

If you’ve recently relocated your family to a new home in another city or state, you’ve probably had a countless number of things on your mind. From planning the logistics of the move to researching the local school system, there’s doubtlessly been a lot on your plate.

One thing we often overlook as parents, however, is the threat of bullying. Children who move to new schools are sometimes bullied. In fact, millions of children are bullied each year and the latest research shows that bullying is the single biggest risk factor for a child developing mental illness.

This is further complicated by the development of cyberbullying, or the use of technology for bullying purposes. This might include computers and the Internet, social media (such as Facebook or Snapchat), smartphones and text messages, digital cameras, and more. Research has shown that girls are more likely to be cyberbullied than boys, and that social media usage and sexual orientation are also risk factors.


No parent wants his or her child to be bullied, but this nightmare situation happens to as many as 1 in 5 children and adolescents. Sadly, cyberbullying has even led to rapes, murders and suicides. Therefore, it’s important to address this common (and concerning) problem before it has a chance to spread to those extremes.

Do you suspect your child is being cyberbullied? Your child might not openly talk about being bullied, but there are still some things you can look for. For instance, if your child complains that the other students are “mean” at his or her new school, this could be an indication that bullying behaviors are occurring.

A telltale sign of cyberbullying in particular could be a sudden change in daily habits. This is particularly true if your child suddenly stops spending time on social media, the computer, or their mobile phone.

To protect your child from being cyberbullied, it is important to establish house rules regarding the usage of social media, computers, smartphones, and other forms of technology. Some parents refuse to allow their children on Facebook, for instance, while others closely monitor their child’s social media usage. Set up rules and boundaries that work best for your family.

Second, if you know who is bullying your child, you need to speak up. Start by contacting your child’s school and see if there is something they can do to help. Unfortunately, some schools still do not have a policy for handling cyberbullies. If that’s the case in your situation, you may want to directly contact the bully’s parents. Keep any text messages, social media messages, or screenshots of any online threats and harassment as proof that you can show.

Depending upon the extent of the bullying, you may want to report the incident to your local authorities. In extreme situations, you may even want to speak to an attorney about your (and your child’s) legal rights in this situation. Some cyberbullying cases have gone to court.

Of course, cyberbullying is a traumatic experience for your child. While you’re handling the situation, it is important to make your home environment as stress-free as possible. Studies have shown that a difficult or high-stress home environment can contribute to mental health and self-esteem issues, especially in children who have recently switched schools.

To help your child maintain mental and emotional health despite being bullied, you can increase praise to boost your child’s self-esteem. Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breaths or even enroll him or her in a children’s yoga class. Encourage a calm home environment, and spend quality time as a family doing playful activities that you all enjoy. This will help you all cope as you get through this difficult time together as a family.

If you suspect your child has been cyberbullied, you have every right to be concerned. This is an alarmingly common scenario. Of course, you only want the best for your child – and you’re already on the right track by researching this difficult topic. Hopefully, the advice listed here will point you in the right direction so you can take the best possible steps for your family. Good luck!

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Luke Porter

How to Talk to Your Teen About Anxiety

There’s a myth that talking about anxiety only makes it worse, as if making someone think about being anxious will make them anxious. This is false, as it assumes that anxiety is only triggered when teens are actively thinking about what makes them anxious. Anxiety disorders don’t work like that. For many, anxiety is more than just moments of stress and nervousness – anxiety is an overarching condition that affects people even when they aren’t actively thinking about it.

 

In reality, talking about anxiety is the first step to helping your adolescent overcome it. Here are some tips for how to go about this without being “naggy” or exerting too much pressure.

 

Let them know that anxiety is normal

 

The first thing you can do to set you and your teen on a positive path is to define what anxiety is and what it is not. Anxiety is a physical or behavioral response to thoughts, usually concerning the unknown. Anxiety is normal and all humans experience it. Anxiety can become a problem when you let it affect your day-to-day life, social interactions, and relationships with others.

 

What anxiety is not is an illness or disease. If your teen knows that their anxiety, while heightened and possibly problematic, is not outside the boundaries of normal thought, they will be more likely to open up to you about it.

 

“Educate yourself about anxiety and its adaptive role in helping humans survive,” says ParentLine.com.  “Explain the physical changes in the human body when danger is perceived (sweaty hands, blood to extremities, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing etc.). By explaining these you are helping to normalize anxiety as well as assisting your child in identifying and understanding the way their own body reacts when anxious.”

 

Let them know that their anxiety is real

 

Whether you think there is any rational basis in your teen’s anxiety is pointless. It is real to them, no matter what you think. It’s incredibly important to make sure they know that you recognize their anxiety as real. If not, they will have a harder time opening up to you.

 

“Does hearing ‘Don’t worry. Relax!’ help you when you’re anxious about something? It probably doesn’t comfort your child much, either. It’s important to acknowledge that your child’s fears are real. Your empathy will increase the chances that your child will accept your guidance and be motivated to work on reducing anxiety,” notes AnxietyBC.com.

 

Encourage a dialog, but don’t nag them to ‘get over it’

 

This is where the delicate nature of parenting really comes into play. You need to encourage an open dialog with your child but you need to prevent yourself from overstepping and moving into the “pressuring” territory.

 

You should empathize with your child’s anxiety but you should not encourage it. For example, you should tell them you understand that they don’t want to go to school today for whatever reason, but you should not let them stay home from school.

 

Be specific about the anxiety

 

When discussing anxiety with your teen, it’s not enough to just accept that they are stressed out, nervous, or scared. You need to do what you can to make the anxiety as specific as possible and provide encouragement in the form of possible solutions.

 

Here’s an example: If your teen is worried about falling behind at school and expresses specific anxiety about not understanding coursework, then you can provide a specific solution like tutoring (don’t worry; you can usually negotiate on price) or talking to the teacher. If your child just says they are nervous about school, it’s hard to help.

 

The bottom line is that you must normalize, accept, but also eventually push back against your teen’s anxiety. In order to do any of this, however, you must build a comfortable situation where teens will be responsive to a dialog. Once you begin talking about the specifics of anxiety, you’ll be able to offer possible solutions.

Author

 

Noah writes for WellnessVoyager and enjoys offering his travel expertise to readers.

 

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com