How to tell if my child is a victim of cyberbullying

We don’t want losers at the party
I can ruin ur life. No 1 likes you! Loser!
Why do you even breathe? Do us all a favor and kill yourself!

We all remember what junior high or high school were like. Some students were popular and got to hang out at the coolest parties, while others were teased, struggling with cruelty in school and in the community. At first, adults might not understand what teenagers are going through. But some parents had the same drama when they were kids, and could offer pretty good advice.

It’s a fact that teenagers don’t like talking about their problems with their parents. They feel embarrassed or think they will be judged, probably even misunderstood. How can parents tell if their children are dealing with cyberbullying and what can they actually do to get them to open up?

Signs a teenager could be a victim of cyberbullying

  • Silent calls, mean texts, emails or social media posts,
  • Mood changes,
  • Tendency to avoid tech devices and meeting with friends,
  • No interest in food or fun activities,
  • Anxiety about going to school or events,
  • Sudden pain, weight loss or weight gain,
  • Nightmares,
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts,
  • Any sign of social exclusion, isolation, low self-esteem, pessimistic reactions and stress.

These are red flags that something is going on, so make sure you don’t ignore these signs. The dynamics of cyberbullying are complex, so it’s possible for the child to inadvertently shift between being a victim to being a bully as a coping mechanism. Whatever happens, take it seriously, and take the time to listen.

How to react if your child is a victim of cyberbullying

  • Keep an open dialogue and build a relationship based on trust, especially if you expect your child to open up about humiliating or violent events.
  • Be their ally and validate their emotional implication, because the abuse has probably been going on for a while. Give your child unconditional support and trust so they can speak openly.
  • Be discrete. Nobody wants to seem uncool or be called a snitch. 
  • Speak to your child openly about the group of friends, activities and what is new.
  • Teach your child about privacy and the importance of not sharing private information, videos or indecent photos online.
  • Explain their digital footprint may be used against them at some point.
  • Make sure they understand the responsibilities that come with technology and being connected 24/7.
  • Encourage them to stand up to the bully, make new friends and move away from the toxic environment, if possible.
  • Talk to them about what it means to be a good friend and healthy friendships. If they are bullied by their friends, then why are they even hanging out?
  • Make sure they understand it’s not right for someone to speak to them that way.
  • Remind them there is legislation to protect them.
  • Document and keep copies of all cyberbullying evidence.
  • Contact the abuser’s parents and report the incident to school officials and police, because harassment is punished by law.
  • Visit a therapist together to learn about coping mechanisms and help your child regain self-esteem.

Teenagers can be rude without it falling under bullying behavior, so it’s very important to carefully analyze each episode in context and simply take it from there. Teenagers have often been bullied by people close to them, friends they trusted and shared secrets with. That’s why it’s important to speak to them about healthy friendships and what it means to be a good friend. Teenagers have a tendency to minimize feelings and events, but they can’t always fake it.

What else can you do about it?

As a parent, school teacher, bystander, friend or even victim yourself, get involved immediately, so things don’t get out of hand. Join us in our fight against cyberbullying and sign the petition to convince Facebook to get involved in spotting and reporting cases of cyberbullying.