Although not always easy to recognize, cyberbullying is a fairly rampant issue among youth - according to the CDC, almost 15% of students will experience cyberbullying between the ages of 12 and 18. But whether it's done via social media, texting, or other messaging apps, the end result is the same: lasting harm to children's emotional and psychological health.
What experts are saying: While some children and youth will be open about bullying they receive, others may be embarrassed and keep it a secret. Experts recommend that you keep a look out for the following signs that your child might be experiencing cyberbullying:
- Negative shifts in mood after looking at phone/computer
- Quickly stopping discussions about phone/online use
- Avoiding school or group gatherings
- Withdrawal from family and friend gatherings
There are, of course, potentially a wide variety of reasons for these behaviors, but if you notice your child exhibiting any or all of these, then it may warrant further conversation. If you do discover that your child is being bullied, experts recommend the following:
- Offer comfort and support, letting them know that you'll figure this out together
- Share any instances of bullying that you can remember from your childhood, and how you dealt with it
- Ask your child how long this has been going on. Document instances of bullying (screenshots, if able) if you decide to report this behavior to your school's principal, guidance counselor, or teacher
- Encourage them not to respond to their bullies, as that often makes it worse
- Explore ways to block the bully's communication -- most social media and texting apps have an easy way to do this.
What our faith says: Although the Bible was obviously written well before this era of cellphones and the internet, the Bible frequently speaks out against slander and encourages us to use our words to build others up. Ephesians 4:29 reads: "Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear" and Matthew 5:11 reads: "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely". As Christians, we have a responsibility to promote positive peer-to-peer interactions -- and to be there to comfort our kids in love whenever needed.
For further reading/reflection: