The thought of anyone bullying your child is enough to make any parent see red but the problem with cyber-bullying is that it’s not always easy to pick up on. Children will experience all sorts of things once they start school and begin interacting with their peers. As a parent or carer, it’s not your job to wrap them in cotton wool or immediately remove them from any challenging situation. You can’t stop your child being bullied – offline or online -but you can make sure that they are equipped to handle these types of situations. One of the best ways to do this is teaching them that they can come to you to talk about anything that upsets them.
Signs your child might be experiencing cyberbullying
- They are avoiding school or frequently call home saying they’re sick
- They seem upset, sad or angry (especially after using the phone or other devices.)
- They unexpectedly stop using their devices
- They seem depressed or spend excessive amounts of time alone or in their bedroom
- They are withdrawing from usual activities
- They suddenly lack interest in computers or rapidly switch screens when you enter the room
- They no longer speak about or meet up with once close friends.
- In all these instances, probe gently at first to understand what has happened to cause this change in behaviour in your child. Take their lead and at their pace, listen attentively and without judgement; reassure them that you are there for them and that you will figure it out together.
Steps you can take
- Block or remove the person as a follower/friend. It is also advisable for children to block others they see abusing people online
- Report the issue to the site/app or phone company
- Get your child to take screenshots of the evidence which may be required by An Garda Síochána or the school
- If the person engaged in the cyberbullying behaviour attends your child’s school, parents should link in with the school to advise what is happening. The Department of Education mandates schools to have an anti-bullying policy in place that outlines the actions it will take should an incident of cyberbullying – or any type of bullying – take place.
- For more serious instances of bullying behaviour or abuse such as harassment, grooming or child sexual abuse material, contact An Garda Síochána.