A recent survey by the RCMP found that 31% of Canadian youth say they have been cyberbullied before. That’s an increase of 17%, which can be blamed on the pandemic, a time in which kids’ screen time soared.
With kids back to school, cyberbullying will become a hot topic once again.
You can’t make a mean person less awful so how can parents, teachers and other concerned adults keep their children safe?
We spoke with experts Dr. Howard Pratt, a psychiatrist and behavioral health medical director at Community Health of South Florida Inc., and Dr. Sara Goldstein, a professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Delaware, who specializes in bullying during childhood and adolescence.
“Because so much of what we do is online, there’s always that space available for someone to message someone negatively online or in a public space and bully another person,” Dr. Pratt tells the Toronto Sun.
“It’s really not a matter of staying safe but rather how to say safer,” he explains. “So, if there is a platform or space online that you learn is a place where bullying is taking place and affecting your child, then much in the same way you do when you learn there is a geographic location where crimes take place, you know you don’t want your kid there and you don’t let them go there.”
That’s easier said than done since parents and teachers can’t protect kids at all times. But adults can watch out for signs. Like bullying, the signs of cyberbullying are similar.
“Often there is a sense of embarrassment by the victim and the kid will try to hide that the bullying is going on,” Dr. Pratt says. “You may notice signs of withdrawal, symptoms of depression and anxiety despite the source coming from someone who is not physically present in your child’s life.”
Depending on the situation — and every situation is different — there are plans that can be implemented for an effective intervention.
“If the bullying is happening on a particular platform, you have to consider risk versus reward when it comes to eliminating it,” suggests Pratt, but warns that parents have to be very sensitive when making these decisions.
“When kids are bullied, whether the bully is someone they know or is a complete stranger, it calls into question so many things for that child,” he explains.
“The kid may ask themself, ‘Is this the way the world is?’ ‘Is this normal?’ ‘What’s wrong with me that this is happening?’
“So, you want to minimize exposure to bullying whether it’s coming from someone they actually know, or whether it’s coming from a complete stranger.”
As far as protecting kids as best as possible, Dr. Goldstein suggests setting clear guidelines and parameters for online behaviour, limiting time online access to devices, and maintaining positive, open relationships with them.
“When kids feel that they can open up to the important adults in their lives, they are more likely to share with them when something challenging is happening,” she says.
“You can never really be 100 per cent safe from cyberbullying,” admits Dr. Pratt. “Bad people are out there who will say and do bad things and we don’t have control of them.”
He suggests getting spyware to find out what your children are up to online.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says. “You want to know who is communicating with your kids, what they are saying, and most critically, discern the intent behind that messaging, which a child may not be able to fully grasp.”
Full Article HERE | Publishing date: Sep 10, 2022