Is your child struggling with cyber bullying? Learn when you should get the school involved.

School is supposed to be a place where children learn, socialize, play and grow. The farthest thought from a parent’s mind is their child coming home from school with signs of cyberbullying, like being depressed, withdrawn, hurt, injured or sad. 

Unfortunately, we see too many cases of bullying in the schools today, including cyberbullying. Growing up decades ago, when one thought of a bully, they would associate it with the playground or recess time at school or after school. 

Today, cyberbullying on social media sites and apps, like Snapchat, Whisper, and After School, is widespread and increasingly problematic, due to the increased access to technology and cell phones.

6 Questions Parents Should Ask About Cyber Bullying

When faced with the issue of bullying in your child's life, you may be unsure of where to begin to address this problem. Parents struggle with this issue daily and some of the questions that they ask are:

  • How did this happen?

  • Who is involved?

  • Does the school know what is going on?

  • What are the other parents doing about this?

  • When should I get the school involved?

  • Should I call the parents of the child who is bullying my child?

While there is no perfect answer to most of these questions, but there are actions that can be taken in order to deal with a bullying incident

If a child is being bullied by another student (even if it takes place outside of the school property) parents and the school needs to address this with all parties involved, as quickly as possible.

The Warning Signs of Cyberbullying

One of the most common issues is that parents don't always know when their child is being bullied, due to the anonymous nature of cyberbullying. Teachers may be able to detect some of these behaviors, but many times, parents are the last to know and are therefore unable to prevent bullying from happening to their child.

This is one reason why schools (in addition to parents) need to be trained on the warning signs of cyber bullying to quickly spot if a student is being bullied in their classroom. And when bullying is involved, it's incredibly important to have the facts and evidence collected before making any accusations.

Here are a few warning signs of cyberbullying that can help parents and teachers spot problems:

  • Depression

  • Withdrawn from friends/family

  • Grades start decreasing

  • Lack of sleep or sleeping all of the time

  • Weight Loss/Gain

  • Mood swings

  • Fighting more with friends/family

If parents or teachers start to see these signs, start documenting everything. Collecting data on these behaviors, including dates, times, and specific details is needed to help you present your case.

It's not always recommended to contact the bully’s parents, since in some cases they may defend their child, deny any allegations and possibly turn the story around on your child.

How Cyberbullying Affects Kids, Their Grades, and Self-Esteem

Kids who are dealing with bullies and the effects of cyberbullying can have an especially hard time maintaining good grades in school. In fact, cyberbullying on social media is linked to teen depression. They may:

  • be anxious
  • have trouble concentrating in class
  • avoid going to class
  • skip school or play "sick" to stay home

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Cyberbullying is associated with both psychological and physical effects. Anxiety, depression, substance use and suicidal ideation are higher among bullies and victims of cyberbullying than traditional bullying." 

For kids struggling with bullies at school, they may even avoid going to class or skip school in an effort to stay away from their aggressors. If their bullies are anonymous, this may encourage them to stay home from school altogether.

Cyber bullying can affect more than just your child's grades - it can affect their mental well-being and self-esteem, leading to restlessness, anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide.

"Depression is a sizable and growing deadly threat to our U.S. adolescent population," wrote Anne  Glowinski and Giuseppe D’Amelio, from Washington University in St. Louis, in a commentary that accompanied a depression study in teens in the medical journal Pediatrics.

What Parents, Teachers, & School Administrators Can Do About Cyberbullying  

Parents, teachers and school administrators can all play a part in keeping elementary, middle school and high school students safe from bullies. Below are a few actions that can help you resolve cyberbullying.

Notice Changes in Behavior

Keep an eye on sudden changes in behavior. If you notice any of the warning signs, start a conversation immediately.

Have Open Communication

Make sure there is two-way open communication between parents, teachers, guidance counselors and other school administrators.

Intervene Immediately

If you witness any type of bullying, intervention should occur immediately.

Get the Facts

Understand the facts of the situation to the best of your ability including who was involved, when the incident occurred, and why this happened.

Document Everything

If online bullying is witnessed, make sure to document what you saw as evidence.

Create a Safe Environment

Encourage kids to speak freely about issues that may make them feel unsafe.

Offer Your Support

Extend support to persons involved in the bullying and also to bystanders or peers who may be aware of it.

4 Tips for Parents to Prevent & Address Cyberbullying

  1. Contact the School Resource Officer
    If your child's school has their own School Resource Officer, contact them immediately. They often have suggestions for handling bullying and the legal advice that parents may need if an incident escalates.
  2. Document the Evidence
    Since bullies often harass their victims online, it's important to screen shot every social media post linked to the cyberbullying, as this will serve as evidence when presented to the school.
  3. Use a Parental Control App
    Using a parental control app that monitors your child's online activity is an essential tool to help families see what's going on in their child’s life.
  4. Keep Open Communication
    Above all else, having an open relationship with your child, their teachers and your child’s school is crucial in order to keep them safe from cyberbullying.

For more help, download our Cyberbullying Guidebook for Parents.

About Susan Wind

Susan Wind is a college professor who has provided training to financial institutions all over the U.S. relating to cybercrimes. Her most recent program, Parents kNOwmore is working with schools all over the country, educating students, parents and faculty on social media awareness and cyberbullying.

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