The 2018 tragedy of Dolly Everett, a teenage girl who committed suicide as a result of alleged bullying and cyberbullying, has once again put this issue at the forefront of our minds. As parents, we try to build the safest possible world we can for our children. We supervise their activities, their homework and what they eat. But sometimes evil can leak into our homes like a poisonous gas without us even knowing about it. That evil is cyberbullying – and it’s far more prevalent than you would think.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a relentless, insidious form of bullying that follows targets twenty-four hours a day via electronic means. That might mean that they are receiving horrible messages over Facebook, intimidating or humiliating Snapchat messages, cruel direct messages via Instagram or any other number of ways that their internet safety has been compromised.
It’s often difficult for schools to do much about cyberbullying because it does not occur at school. It’s often difficult for police to intervene (without huge amounts of evidence) because offenders often mask their identities. While schools and communities can have policies and positive anti-bullying messages, sometimes the poor victim has nowhere to turn because the hate just keeps on coming.
How can Cyberbullying impact our kids?
Like any form of harassment, cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on the victim. They may feel:
• Isolated and alienated
• Unable to connect with or confide in those around them
• Withdrawal from activities they previously found enjoyable
• School or activity refusal
• Changes in weight or appearance
• Low self-esteem
• A feeling of helplessness or ‘what’s the point’
• Poor academic achievement
What can we do as parents?
Rather than asking your child to delete intimidating or threatening messages, it is in your best interest to keep them. These may later be used as evidence.
Speak up and go to the school to make them aware of the situation. Go to the police. Talk to anyone who will listen about what is occurring to your child without betraying the trust that your child has in you (a difficult line to walk!).
Build your child up as much as you can without pressuring them or making them feel worse than they do. Allow them to confide in you without pushing them. Discuss what good friends are like and how to find them. Work with your child to help build their self-esteem back up and consider psychological intervention should you become concerned that they are a danger to themselves.
How can we help our kids if they are experiencing Cyberbullying?
The Australian Government has developed an excellent resource to assist kids (and adults) to deal with this scourge. ESafety allows you to report incidents of cyberbullying, collect evidence and leads you through the process on what will happen next. Follow this link to connect with this valuable resource.
As mentioned before, do NOT delete evidence. Report all abuse on social media via ‘report’ functions in Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. Take screenshots and make complaints to police to see if IP addresses can be traced.
When Cyberbullying invades your home
This can be an incredibly hard time for families. The fact that you are searching for answers shows that you are the best ally your child has right now. Work with them, the school, the police and the community to ensure that your child does not become yet another sad statistic. Fight for your family and fight for your child – if parents and communities are pro-active against cyberbullying then we CAN beat it. Do it for Dolly.
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