Today's post is the third in a series about social media and cyberbullying. This is a relatively new phenomenon that is seriously affecting many preteens and adolescents in ways that are difficult to keep up with. Be sure to catch up by reading Part 1 of the series, which delves into healthy social media enjoyment, and Part 2 of the series, which helps people identify what cyberbullying is and what to do about it. I hope you enjoy the last segment of this series...
Cyberbullying can sometimes be difficult to identify, even if you are the one experiencing it. Imagine, then, how difficult it could be to know if your child is being bullied online. Here are 5 signs that might indicate that your child is being cyberbullied. *Note: One warning signal alone does not necessarily mean there is a problem, but several signs together may become more telling of a larger issue.
1 | Rapid Change in Amount of Internet Usage
Everyone knows the stereotype of millennials being attached to their cell phones. While there are many teens that spend copious amounts of time on the internet, there are also those who use it sparingly. Neither of these patterns of behavior should elicit any worry, but if your teen abruptly switches from one pattern to the other, this could be a possible response to cyberbullying. Sometimes when someone is being cyberbullied, they can respond by withdrawing from the online sphere in order to escape, or even deleting one or more social media accounts entirely. On the opposite end of the spectrum, cyberbullying could induce heightened internet usage, as the victim may feel inclined to seek out what is being said to them or about them—to know what they may be up against.
2 | Consistently Sad or Depressed After Being Online
There are sad things swirling around in the worldwide web, so it may be natural to come across something disheartening from time to time. However, if your child is constantly upset after using the internet, this may be a bit more than coming across an unfortunate news update. Cyberbullying is incredibly difficult to endure, and would undoubtedly induce a less-than-stellar mood. If you notice that your teen is often sad as a direct result of internet usage, it may be worth checking in to make sure everything is okay.
3 | Finding Fake Profiles of Your Child
“Catfishing” is a term now used to describe more than retrieving fish from the water (which is actually called “noodling,” but that’s neither here nor there). “Catfishing” is a situation in which someone on the internet pretends to be someone they are not. If you use Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media and come across a profile in your child’s name, with your child’s picture, but it is not in fact their account, this could be problematic. If someone is catfishing others pretending to be your teen, this can be dangerous because they may post things that your child would not. This is one of the warning signs that, alone, has the potential to be detrimental to your child and should be addressed immediately.
4 | Nervousness in Response to Texts or Internet Messages
Sometimes when someone is being cyberbullied, it comes in the form of direct messages to the victim. If this is the case for your child, you may notice them becoming increasingly nervous or jumpy when their phone buzzes with a new message. Now, there are instances where texts can increase nerves, such as waiting for a reply about a job, a final grade, or something else that could have been weighing on your teen’s mind. However, if this is behavior is persistent and possibly accompanied by other warning signs, there may be something more going on.
5 | Hiding Their Internet Usage from You
Cyberbullying can be embarrassing, even though the victim is in no way at fault. This could be a possible reason that your teen may hide their laptop screen or put away their phone when you walk into the room. Another mentality about cyberbullying that may elicit this same response is the worry that if their parents knew, they might make the situation worse. While this is not the most encouraging response for parents, let’s face it: adults do not know the social climate that teens endure, because it is constantly changing. A victim of cyberbullying may worry that if their parents knew, they would take action that may exacerbate the problem rather than solving it.
If your child is exhibiting some of these worrisome warning signs, there are various ways to help. First and foremost, remember that your child is most important, and to always be understanding of their situations and feelings. At a household level, you can create a welcoming environment in which your child feels comfortable talking to you. At a higher level, you can contact the school (if your child is comfortable with this), or contact the content provider for the website or app that the bullying is occurring on. Cyberbullying directly violates the Terms of Service for most main social media sites, and this can be an easy and more anonymous way to evade these negative online comments. If threats are present, contact the police. This could make your child uncomfortable (they may worry that you are over-reacting or are going to embarrass them), but ultimately your child’s safety is vital and it is better to be safe than sorry. For more information on how to proceed if your child is exhibiting these warning signs, you can visit websites such as:
Want to learn more about this topic? Check out this free comprehensive guide to cyberbullying.
about the author
Hi! I'm Jackie, a psychology undergrad at Vanderbilt who loves dogs more than just about anything. When I'm not busy mentoring, you can find me playing or watching volleyball, playing the violin or, of course, watching a ton of Netflix!