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