While face-to-face bullying is unacceptable and hurtful, cyberbullying is a beast on its own that is gaining momentum and causing widespread harm to society. The problem with cyberbullying is that it spreads its venom not just to the one, but to hundreds if not thousands of bystanders who are exposed to the toxic posts. Since many remain anonymous behind the safety of their own screens, it is easy for anyone to “hate back” and contribute to verbal diarrhea that is plaguing most of our social media platforms.
A victim of bullying may be safe while they are away from the bully, but unfortunately, there is no hiding from an online troll as 98% of Canadian youth are on social media. Within a split second, their world can be turned upside down by body shaming, humiliation, threats or hate all while laying in the comfort of their own bed, or during their bus ride to school. They are potential targets from the moment they wake up until they go to bed.
One’s self-esteem, body image, and reputation may be tainted, but the effects are often much more damaging, resulting in mental health issues, isolation, depression and in extreme cases suicide.
Cyberbullying is contaminating the screens of young people by:
-Sending mean, hateful or threatening texts or emails
-Spreading embarrassing rumours or secrets about someone
-Posting an embarrassing picture or video of someone without their knowledge or permission
-Pretending to be someone else to spread hurtful messages online
Here are a few signs that your child may have become a victim of cyberbullying:
-Seems on edge when receiving a text, or email
-Secretive about their online activity
-Bursts of anger or depression after being online
-Abruptly turning off or walking away from their device while in use
What can you do to help:
-Keep the lines of communication open and listen more – talk less.
-Be a shame-free and judgment-free zone, especially when they make mistakes.
-Document and report the bullying to school authorities and your local police detachment if necessary.
-Keep their phones in your room at night which will force them to sleep and give their brains a break from the constant stimulation.
Growing up for this generation looks drastically different than it did decades ago. And since many of the challenges that plague children and teens are so new and foreign to us, we must exercise patience and attempt to grow in understanding and unconditional love. Not every problem requires a solution, and sometimes the best remedy we can bring to a situation is genuine care and a listening ear. It is our responsibility as parents to not turn a blind eye but stay educated on the issues that are affecting our youth today.
For more information on cyberbullying, please visit:
Uknowkids.com, bullyingcanada.ca, publicsafety.gc.ca
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In 2016 she wrote her first book Dare to be Raw, which is her true story of triumph over tragedy.Willard's book is available at The Review or through her website.
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