Cyberbullying and its continued rise is a growing concern to parents and teachers throughout the country. Ireland’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon has recently said that cyberbullying is ‘one of the biggest challenges facing Irish schools’ and has called for stronger legislation to protect children in relation to this specific type of bullying.
Signs of cyberbullying, at its simplest, is when one child targets another child with humiliating, embarrassing or threatening behaviour through the Internet or a mobile device.
When we asked children about their experience of cyberbullying as part of our Zeeko All Ireland Trend Report they told us that: 23% of pupils in 5th class and 34% of 6th class pupils had experienced cyberbullying themselves or were aware of friends and/ or family members who had experienced cyberbullying. At Zeeko we regularly hear parents and teachers voice concerns about cyberbullying and how best to deal with it. Given that this form of bullying can take place via a digital device such as a smartphone, laptop or tablet it can be difficult to spot the signs of cyberbullying and this can increase anxiety and concern for parents in particular.
So, how can you spot the signs of cyberbullying? If your child:
- Is unwilling to share experiences about their online activity
- Appears nervous when they receive a text message or instant message
- Displays unexplained anger particularly after being online
- Is withdrawing from family and friends offline
These signs, along with the more traditional signs of the impact of bullying such as disturbed sleep, appearing particularly stressed and not wanting to go to school, all point to a child needing help and support.
Once again, communication is the key when helping your child to deal with cyberbullying. The STOP, BLOCK, TELL Rule is a very concrete way of dealing with a cyber bully quickly. Talk with your child about the importance of stopping what they are doing online, the minute that they feel uncomfortable, that they should block anyone who is saying nasty or hurtful things to them online and that they can feel safe in telling you or another adult they trust about their experience, without fear of any negative consequence.
Signs of cyberbullying is now a very unfortunate fact of living in a digital world and is on the increase. However once you keep the lines of communication open with your child and help them to feel empowered when they are online, they will undoubtedly be better equipped to deal with the challenge of cyberbullying.
The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide provides more comprehensive advice on dealing with cyberbulling and other internet safety topics. You can buy a copy of the book here.