Swimming Lesson #1: Cyberbullying

Swimming Lesson #1: Cyberbullying

Hello and welcome to our first swimming lesson for the big wide ocean!

 

Today we will learn about cyberbullying; signs to watch for, and how to deal with cyberbullying. I gave you a few statistics about cyberbullying in the last blog, so I won’t go into a lot today. Suffice it to say that cyberbullying happens. Most children and youth experience it to some degree, and the most common types of cyberbullying include name-calling, spreading rumors, sending and sharing explicit images, and physical threats.

 

Adolescence is a challenging time. Remember the changes to our bodies? The acne? The insecurities? Remember trying to fit in and feeling like you just don’t? Remember looking at the ‘cool kids’ and wishing you could walk with them? Remember wanting privacy and independence and wanting someone you love to wrap their arms around you and keep you safe all at the same time? Soooo confusing….

 

During this time, the adolescent brain is going through some major changes. It is developing higher-end thinking capacities, which is why one minute they seem mature and able to think about actions and consequences and the next minute they are throwing a temper tantrum reminiscent of when they were three. Adolescents are not known for consistently making wise choices. But in their own way, adolescents are all seeking approval and a sense of belonging. This is why they are particularly susceptible to bullying, to being bullied, and not knowing what to do about it.

 

What exactly is Cyberbullying?  It’s when someone uses technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. It hurts people, and in some cases, can be against the law. Because kids have almost 24-hour access to technology i.e. their phones, laptops, etc., cyberbullying can happen anywhere at any time. It can cause anxiety, depression in both the victim and the bully. Unfortunately, there are cases like Amanda Todd in BC, where the victim sees no other alternative than to take their own lives by suicide. Amanda Todd Legacy Society Official Site – Home

 

One way parents and caregivers can give their child independence but still ‘swim close enough so I can see you’ is to enable controls on apps and programs. Snapchat, for example, has a ‘Who Can Contact Me’ function in its settings menu which will allow only people that have been added can send snaps and avoids the ability for strangers to send snaps. Instagram has a similar setting that will lock the account so only approved followers can follow and see pictures. 

 

Another way to allow youth to use technology is for you to be part of your kids’ online world. Ask them to teach you what they like to do when they are online.  “Friend” or “Follow” them on their social media or game sites so you can see what is going on and who is seeing your child’s feed. If you see something you are not comfortable with, you can talk to your child about it offline and teach your child what you are concerned about and why and work together to plan how to handle it.

 

Unfortunately, most teens will not go to their parents, teachers, or other trusted adults if they are being cyberbullied. Many times they are embarrassed, ashamed, or are afraid to tell. Here are a few things to watch for that might be signs your child is being cyberbullied.

  • Being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or smartphone
  • Being very secretive or protective of their digital life
  • Isolating themselves in their bedroom
  • Withdrawing from normal family activities, friends, or usual interests
  • Avoiding going to school
  • Being nervous or jumpy when they get a message, text, or email.

Basically, watch for a change in behaviour and attitudes. This could be a red flag for different things, not just cyberbullying, but it is a red flag that needs to be addressed. Talk to your child in private, ask them if they are ok. Tell them you have noticed a change, that you are concerned, and you want to help. Don’t be afraid to ask point-blank questions- “How is school?” “ Has anyone said or done something that has hurt or bothered you?” Although you can’t force them to tell you, you are the caregiver, and if you are concerned, hopefully, they will talk to you. If they don’t, you could ask them to give you their phone and show you their texts, etc. The important thing is that you stay calm and reassure them that you love them and you are worried.

 

If your child is being cyberbullied, make sure your child knows you are their advocate, you will do what you need to to help them. Notify the school about what is going on. Tell your child not to respond, even though it may be difficult. Don’t delete anything, and most importantly, get help. Again, depending on the severity of the situation, you may choose to contact appropriate agencies like https://www.cybertip.ca/app/en/ or https://www.bullyingcanada.ca/  to talk to trained professionals. Give your child access to the kids helpline so they can talk to someone.

 

On the flip side, what if your child is part of the aggressive side of cyberbullying? Some signs that may indicate your child is participating in cyberbullying may include seeming to laugh when they are online and won’t show you why, they may seem to be obsessed with popularity, and/or there may be an increase in aggressive behavior at home or school.

 

If you learn your child is involved in cyberbullying, stay calm. Even though there is no excuse for cyberbullying, your child is still a child. Explain how their behavior can affect others. Set and enforce consequences. Again, I would recommend reaching out to agencies like those above to get supports for you and your child. Depending on the situation, you may need to involve the school, the victim’s family, etc. In some cases, cyberbullying can cross the line into illegal activity, and your child may be at risk of being expelled or even charged with offenses.

 

One of the most powerful ways to stop cyberbullying is to educate and empower youth that are neither participating in cyberbullying or being cyberbullied themselves. These bystanders hold great power- they can disarm the bullying by not participating, sharing, or posting. They can support the victim by advocating for them, reaching out as a friend, and posting comments like cyberbullying is not ok. They can report it to people who can help- parents, teachers, police, or cybertip.ca

 

Bullying has always existed.  Unfortunately, it probably always will.  But that doesn’t have to stop us from trying to stop it. Together we can make a difference. 

 

As always, email me with your thoughts and ideas… Have any questions? Let me know… sandi@thedragonflycentre.com. If you need immediate support with anything regarding sexual violence, please call Dragonfly Centre at 780-812-3174 or use our online chat support on our website.

 

Until next time… Let’s Keep Making the Shift!

Sandi