In this day and age kids get access to the internet at an early age.
With hands-on the web, kids are doing wonderful things at a very young age, they are developing apps, creating software, and what not!
But they are also prone to online threats and crimes like cyberbullying. A recent study by Child Rights and You (CRY) states that around 9.2% of 630 adolescents surveyed in Delhi-National Capital Region had experienced cyberbullying and half of them had not reported it to teachers, guardians or social media companies concerned.
Children are bullied online and the cases of online crimes have been increasing with increased consumption of the web. Needless to say, the pandemic has made it a necessity for children to be online. And apart from the current crisis, it doesn’t make sense to devoid children of internet access and hinder their skill building because some kids or online offenders feel they can harass online users as they like. However, what keeps them continue doing what they do is the ignorance of people towards cybercrimes. In most cases, parents and authorities don’t take the required action and shrug off the online bullying as nothing.
“Cases of cyber stalking or bullying of women or children increased by 36% from 542 in 2017 to 739 in 2018, data released recently by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed. Meanwhile, the conviction rate for cyber stalking or bullying of women and children fell 15 percentage points from 40% in 2017 to 25% in 2018. However, during the same period, the pendency percentage saw an increase of 1 percentage point to 96%, the data show. Yet, the reported cases of threatening/blackmail fell 28.3% from 311 to 223 during the same period, which experts said is largely due to underreporting.”
The sections below will help you understand the early signs of your child being at risk and measures you need to take if or if not your child is being bullied or bullying someone online.
Notice The Early Signs That Points To Your Child Being At Risk
Your child can either be the culprit or the victim. In some cases, they may be aware of anything such happening with someone they know or to their friend. Whatever the case may be, it is essential that as parents you acknowledge the problem, speak to the child, and handle the situation as need be. Check the points below that can help you recognize the signs of the same:
1. Spending a long time over Computers/Web
Children use a computer and their smart devices a lot more than before as the pandemic has shifted their education online. However, it is not usual to see your child on a computer or using phones all the time. Spending long hours on a computer or using cell phones is the most common and one of the first signs that you’ll notice. When kids are exposed to inappropriate content, involve in cyberbullying, or are being a victim of it they will be spending unusually long hours over computers.
2. You find inappropriate content from the computer
Chances are that if you’ll try to scan the computer you may get files that your kid should not be viewing. The other thing is to check browser history. Although, kids are pro with tech and they have their ways but sleuthing once in a while does no harm.
3. Change in behaviour
Another early sign is a prominent change in behaviour. This is more common among teens. Once they are involved in any such activity, they tend to get distant from family. You can observe a sudden change in behaviour in terms of not speaking much, staying away from the family members, staying alone, etc. Victimized children are more likely to have difficulty sleeping, headaches, nervousness, stomach aches, and make excuses to avoid going to school. Kids are usually reluctant to tell anyone about problems with their peers and fear losing internet privileges if they report being cyberbullied. This sudden change can be because someone is harassing your kid online or maybe because they are involved in some wrong activity over the web. You must ensure they feel confident that they can tell you anything and that you will help them. We must teach our children that no one has the right to hurt another person.
4. Keep a tab on your kids' screen time
Have you ever noticed how quickly your child shuts the screen off when you enter the room where they use computer? A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen. If your child is experiencing some harassment over the web or is involved in any ill activity, chances are they will hide it from you. It is difficult for children to come upon their parents and share their negative internet experiences. It could be due to the fear of being stopped from internet access or facing consequences from peers if you report to the school or parents of other children involved. Try to notice if your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
5. The child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else
Even if you don't subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend's house or the library. Online offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them. It is not mandatory that your child is being harassed by their school mates or any friends. In this age of social media, it is possible that your child has online friends or interact with strangers which can lead to possible cyberbullying. Ensure that you know about your child’s online web consumption, the social media platforms they use, people they befriend on the internet and talk to. It is important to keep all these things in your knowledge to ensure that your child is having a safe online environment.
What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied Or Bullying Someone Online
Parents also need to understand that a child is just as likely to be a cyberbully as a victim of cyberbullying and often go back and forth between the two roles during one incident. If you find out that your kid is being harassed online or is involved in cyberbullying someone else you must not panic and take one thing at a time. The following pointers will help you understand how to deal with this tough situation at hand:
Before rushing to any conclusion whether your child is the victim or offender, give them a chance to explain and speak out to you. Doing so will build trust in them for a lifetime. In both cases, you must hear your child first. In most cases, cyberbullying happens due to underlying issues that kids may be having with themselves or among peers. Understand the root causes that lead to this situation to help your child. Hear them out and affirm them that you are there for them so they do not hesitate to approach you if anything happens again. For the parents whose child is being the offender, teach your child about how wrong it is, and try to understand what made him/her indulge in cyberbullying in the first place. Address your child’s concerns and issues so that they acknowledge the crime they have committed.
2. Let the school know
Since children use technologies for their schooling, you must convey to the concerned school authorities about what has happened. There are school counsellors that keep an eye for in school and online bullying. They know how to handle these things and are good at dealing with children who indulge in cyberbullying. If you see repeated incidences, you may consider notifying your paediatrician, family counsellor, or clergy for support. You must be there to provide the necessary support and love. Make them feel secure. There have been cases around the globe where children commit suicide after having been cyberbullied. You must make them feel secured and take things seriously.
3. Keep an eye
If your child has bullied someone, keep an eye on their internet activities. Take all precautions in terms of limiting screen time, success for their online social media platforms, try to make sure that they use the web under someone’s guidance. Impart knowledge about the right and wrongdoings of the internet. Make them aware of the consequences of committing cybercrimes.
For parents who are dealing with children who’ve been victimized by cybercrimes, keep a check on their mental health. Cyberbullying often leads to anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression in victims. They develop issues of low self-esteem, under confidence, and other concerns that make them question their worth and value. Suicidal tendencies are prevalent in severe cases of cyberbullying victims. You need to ensure that your child is in a safe place mentally. Talk to them, help and support them in appropriate ways. Seek medical help if you see your child’s condition not getting better.
4. Know their online friends
Children start using social media at an early age. It is common to have online friends for teens. However, they must understand the related threats and concerns if their online friend is an online offender disguised as a friend. At first, talk to your kids about their online friend circle. Get to know your children’s online friends. Making “friends” online is fast and easy, but you must help your children learn the difference between a real friend and a friendly stranger. You can monitor their online friendships by asking them questions about their virtual friendships just like you ask them about their day in school. Make them understand the importance of keeping private information confidential. Urge your children never to disclose any information that would reveal who they are, where they live, or where they go to school. Instruct them never to arrange to meet online-only friends in person without your notice, presence or knowledge, whatever you find appropriate.
Some Ground Rules To Avoid Cyberbullying
- Warn children about the importance of privacy and the dangers of predators and sexting. Teens need to know that once the content is shared with others, they will not be able to delete or remove it completely.
- Keep your home computer in a central and open location. If your computer is in the open, you can physically monitor your children while they are online.
- Most operating systems allow you to create a different account for each user. Separate accounts can lessen the chance that your child might accidentally access, modify, change settings, and/or delete your files. You can set up certain privileges (the things that can and can’t be done) for each account. Doing so will also help you track your child’s computer usage. Since there will be a different profile for your child, there are chances that they do not hide files in their account. If need be, you can access their accounts and know if they are involved in anything inappropriate.
- Kids will make mistakes using media. Try to handle errors with empathy and turn a mistake into a teachable moment. But some indiscretions, such as sexting, bullying, or posting self-harm images, maybe a red flag that hints at troubles ahead.
- Expand your children’s online experience and their autonomy when you feel it is age-appropriate for them. If they demonstrate competence in safe and secure online behavior and good decision making, you can allow them personal accounts on social media platforms. Until then, you should have access to their social media accounts.
- Look at the privacy settings available on social networking sites, cell phones, and other social tools your children use. Decide together which settings provide the appropriate amount of protection for each child.
- Help your children identify safe, credible Web sites and other digital content, and be cautious about clicking on, downloading, posting, and uploading content.
At last, in any sphere of life modelling what you want your child to do is the best way to go. Do what I do” is so much more powerful than “do what I say” in any aspect of parenting. Be a role model for ethical internet usage. As much as you teach your child about the right use of the internet and set limitations on smart device usage, you must go by the rulebook.
In what other ways can parents prevent cyberbullying? Share in the comments section below.