How do you know if your teen is being cyberbullied? The biggest red flag is a withdrawal from technology. If you notice a sudden change in your teen’s computer or phone usage, talk to her. Kids who are being cyberbullied often feel too embarrassed to speak up.
Be on the lookout for these warning signs that your teen is being cyberbullied:
- Suddenly avoids the computer, cell phone or other devices
- Exhibits low self-esteem or depression
- Is extremely moody, agitated or anxious
- Appears stressed when receiving an email, instant message or text
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits (e.g., nightmares)
- Withdraws from family and friends
- Doesn’t want to participate in activities he/she once enjoyed
- Suddenly changes friends
- Doesn’t want to go to school
- Has declining grades or gets into trouble at school
- Hurts self, attempts or threatens suicide
Parents can take steps to prevent cyberbullying before it starts or becomes worse. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) offers these tips to keep your teen cyber-safe:
- Keep your home computer in a common area of your house.
- Set up your teen’s email and chat accounts with them. Make sure you know their screen names and passwords. Tell your teen to never share passwords with anyone except you (not even their friends).
- Communicate online rules and responsibilities. Almost 80 percent of teens said that they either did not have parental rules about internet use or found ways around the rules.
- Monitor your teen’s online usage and behavior. Regularly go over their “buddy list” with them — ask who each person is and how your teen knows him or her.
- Share examples of inappropriate incidents that can happen online, which teens may view as harmless or normal. Tell your teen to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone he/she met online.
- Remind your teen to never give out personal information online (including names, addresses, phone numbers, school names, credit card numbers, etc.). Point out that the internet is accessed by millions of people all over the world, not just friends and family.
- Tell your teen not to put anything online that they wouldn’t want others to see, even in email. Remind them not to send messages when angry or upset.
- Tell your teen to never open emails from someone he/she doesn’t know or from someone they know is a bully.
- Tell your teen that it’s not his/her fault if they are cyberbullied, and you won’t blame them or take away their computer privileges. (This is the main reason kids don’t tell adults when they are cyberbullied).
- Teach your teen not to respond to cyberbullies. Show them how to block the bully’s messages or to delete messages without reading them. Over 70 percent of teens said that being able to block cyberbullies was the most effective method of prevention.
- Help your teen keep a record of bullying incidents. Let her/him know that cyberbullies can often be traced, located and punished. If the cyberbullying involves threats and harassment, report it to the police.