Cyber Bullying, A Parent Guide
No More Bullying!
Be the Change You Seek
You are reading this article for one of three reasons. It is possible that you have a child who is currently being bullied. You are parenting a child who has been known to be a bully. You are a member of the general public who is concerned about bullying. While there may be other rationale for your interest in this subject, these are, generally speaking, the three main objectives of a person’s inquiry into cyber bullying.
I, myself come at this from an educator’s point of view. I am also the parent of a school aged child. Way back when, when MySpace was the rage, I learned about cyber bullying. I was teaching a class of lower income students, some of whom had access to computers. I directly experienced a young lady’s anguish over being threatened and slandered by others in her class. I saw the tears, the rage and the eventual withdrawal from a promising academic career, all caused by cyber bullying. When parents were brought in to address the situation, they were astounded that “my child” would ever do something as hurtful as putting inflammatory remarks into the cybershpere. Of course, I also dealt with the parents who said “Not MY child!” until they were confronted with the evidence.
Cyber Bullying- Definition
According to the organization STOP Cyber bullying, this type of bullying occurs to school aged children. The age range is generally from ten years of age to the teen aged years. This places the child in grades five through twelve. Bullying of this nature concerns torment, fear, threats, targeting, humiliation, and public harassment or embarrassment. It is important to note that the way the target feels about the situation and their perception of the situation is critical. This is not “just kids being kids”. This behavior is meant to be hurtful and damaging.
Because we are using the term ‘cyber’ it is important to understand that the Internet, Social Media, interactive media and any other digital type technology should be included in the methods of bullying. Minor children are the people involved in this behavior. Understand that this behavior is a violent behavior. It is meant to hurt. It is related to children’s’ future mental health issues. The United States Center for Disease Control refers to this as electronic aggression. There are studies, linked in this article, that suggest school phobia, chronic absenteeism, and school behavior problems may be associated with this kind of violence. According to the Character Education Partnership, “160,000 children skip school every day because they fear being attacked or intimidated by other students.”
Children who are victimized in this manner may also have difficulties in other areas, and may be the targets of emotional abuse by caregivers. Appreciating that off- line victimization is not uncommon as well, it can be understood that cyber bullying has a ripple effect over the entire life experience of the victim. The ripple begins as a raindrop and expands into a hurricane of ear, desperation and ultimate destruction of self worth.
To answer this question would be akin to finding all the cures to all the cancers in all the patients of all the wards around the world. It is reasonable to assume that basic needs are not being met when children bully. From the parenting perspective, the need for belonging, which may evidence itself in the lack of family supervision, is evident in these children. From the school point of view, there may be a power need fulfillment in the bullying act. Bullies may perceive themselves to have a higher status with their peers. This may in fact be rewarded, which then fulfills the need for fun, even though it is in a very perverted way. Corrosponingly, children of low social status may find that bullying provides a deflective mechanism regarding their own torment. This relates to the need for survival.
Following is a list of possible reasons for the bullying behavior we see at schools, malls and on line:
- Peer bullying
- Sibling bully behavior
- Parents who model this violence.
- Parental modeling of the behavior at stores or in the home
- Attention seeking behavior
Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied
After researching the signs that a child might be experiencing violence or bullying behavior, the following is a list of symptoms to be aware of. It is a “Top 10” list and not meant to be all inclusive. .
- Marks, scrapes and bruises that cannot be explained by the usual “we were playing on the playground and I got bumped” explanation.
- Fear of attending school
- Sudden mood change. From exuberant to sullen. From bright eyed to withdrawn.
- Nightmares, talking in the sleep, sleep walking
- Unusual physical symptoms. More symptoms than usual. Headaches, stomach aches,
- Frequent calls from the school related to your child’s behavior and or nurse office visits. The schools call this the “Frequent flyer syndrome”
- Change in academic achievement. Generally downward spiraling.
- Sibling violence. Rage behavior.
- Inability to accept compliments, or expressions of not being good enough as a human, not merely as a basketball player or reader……”
10. Suicidal ideations or verbalizations.
Again, these are merely some of the warning signs that parents and staff need to be aware of. There are certainly others. When in doubt- trust your gut. As a parent, these children are the most precious jewels in our crown. Moms, especially, seem to have a sixth sense about these things.
What to Do If You Suspect Bullying Behavior/Working with the School
It is crucial that parents remember that they are the consumers. When one suspects that their child is being harassed it is devastating. It is scary. Why is it important to have the consumer mentality? Simply put- we pay the bills. We pay the salaries. We deserve to get what we pay for.
You should expect the following behavior from school personnel when you lodge a concern. Here is a list to know that you are being heard.
- Is school communication timely?
- Are actions taken within 24-28 hours?
- Does the staff speak ‘educationese’ or real words?
- ‘Educationese’- “Thank you for the concern, that’s interesting, we’ll certainly look into that”.
- Real words- “I hear your fright. That must be terrible for your whole family. How can I help you, parent to parent?”
- Is the situation confronted clearly?
- Do you have a memory of how the situation was dealt with?
What to Do If You Suspect Bullying Behavior
- Ask direct questions. Then LISTEN!
- When driving, listen to the back seat conversations. LISTEN.
- Be aware of body language when you talk to the child. LOOK
- Walk the Talk. If you say you are always available to listen, always be available to listen. LISTEN! DON’T TALK.
- Believe YOUR child. Their perception is also their reality.
- Advocate for your child.
- Listen and allow your child problem solve the solutions.
- Hint: the old “just walk away” doesn’t solve the problem.
- Address feelings. Talk feelings. Listen to feelings.
- If the child asks a direct question of YOU, give a direct answer to THEM.
Here’s the bottom line. We live in a dangerous and violent and sexualized society. In many ways, our children are experiencing the demise of the Roman Empire. Anyone who differs with the last statement only has to read history. We are responsible for this. We watch the cable TV. We glorify the movies. We pay the bills.
The parents who raised us are responsible for our own moral decay. That in NO WAY excuses us from keeping our own children safe. It does not excuse schools and youth organizations form their responsibility to respond to all children and all parents with loving kindness and compassion. The buck stops on my kitchen table. The end starts with you hugging your child and shielding them as much as possible from the muck of present day life. How we proceed will determine whether or not our children have a world to live in, or a cage to survive in.