Technology has become a very prominent pathway to communication for many children and teenagers. Cell phones and computers are an important part of life for most people as a way to keep in touch with friends and family even on the busiest days. The internet is a great way to interact with others; however, it can also become a gateway to harassment and bullying. Cyber-bullying is defined as the torment, humiliation, taunting, threatening and harassment of a child or teenager from another minor by use of the internet, mobile phone or other type of interactive digital technology. Cyber-bullying can cause extremely negative effects on both mental and physical health. Parents should be aware of the signs that may indicate their child is a victim of bullying.
Anger or Frustration After Social Interaction
Most children enjoy talking on the phone and using the computer. Social interaction is important for growth and development; however, it becomes a problem when a child repeatedly displays signs of anger or aggravation after communication. This is typically an indication of unwanted contact from others.
Being bullied causes humiliation. Bullied children will often evade discussions about their online or social activities to avoid embarrassment. Some children may often become hostile when confronted about it. It is not uncommon for teenagers to keep some things private but it is important for parents to be attentive to any changes in behavior. For example, a child that was previously open about their relationship with a particular friend or group of friends but currently becomes defensive when asked about them may be suffering from cyber-bullying.
Anxiety may be displayed in many ways. Frustration, agitation and nervousness are signs of anxiety that can be observed by others. A child may show these symptoms of anxiety before or after engaging in social activity if they are experiencing abuse through cruel words or threats.
Withdrawal from Friends and Family
It is almost always a cause for concern whenever a teenager becomes noticeably withdrawn. Social isolation can lead to depression and aggressive behavior in some cases. Signs of isolation may include:
No interest in social activities
Avoiding situations that include contact with others
Constant irritability and anger
Frequently engaging in solitary activities
Children in isolation feel alone and often feel misunderstood. When they feel lonely, negative thoughts such as retaliation or even suicide may occur. It is important as parents to try to reach out to them as soon as possible.
Child Appears Uncomfortable Leaving the House
Even children who are not withdrawn or isolated can show signs of anxiety when they are obliged to interact with others. A child that appears happy or relaxed in the comfort of their own home but becomes uneasy when forced to leave may be afraid of confrontation with others.
Communication is essential when attempting to reach out to children who become the target of cyber-bullying. Talk about all options to stop the bullying and develop a course of action that they may be most comfortable with. Consider seeking help from a teacher or school administrator to discuss possible solutions.
Parents can also help their children avoid potential cyber-bullying by teaching them the importance of online safety and responsibility. Talk about positive responses to cyber-bullying such as blocking all communication or deleting unread messages that are received from the bully. Parents can remind their children that there is always someone to talk to if they are ever a victim of cyber-bullying.
Byline: Terra Masterson is a psychologist who has studied the effects of social phenomena such as child bullying, fashion trends and online dating.