Like many mums, my gut feel plays a big role in my parenting. And it’s usually spot on.
Whether it’s a spontaneous ‘tummy ache’ before school, trouble sleeping or being unusually withdrawn – our instincts often tell us when something's not right with our kids.
But if you also notice them getting nervous when they receive a message, or that they become angry or upset after using their devices, then it might be time to investigate the possibility that they are the victim of cyberbullying.
Watch: How ‘Proud Parent Syndrome’ Affects Your Child’s Cyber Safety. Post continues below.
Cyberbullying is defined as the ‘act of deliberately and repeatedly hurting or embarrassing someone via electronic means’. It can take many forms: mean texts, threatening messages, hurtful comments on social media platforms, sharing pics or videos designed to embarrass, spreading rumours, or a bully setting up a fake profile of a victim.
And the unfortunate reality is that cyberbullying is a real problem in Australia, particularly among young people. According to our Aussie eSafety Commissioner, one in five Australian young people report being socially excluded, threatened, or abused online.
Cyberbullying and social media.
Social media can be an incredible tool for human connection, but we all know that's not how it always works. The fact that most teens have Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube or even Facebook (yes - some still do!) means it's very easy for a cyberbully to contact their ‘victim’. If the victim’s privacy settings are set to default, then they can essentially receive a message from anyone.
But cyberbullying doesn’t just occur through private messages on social media, it can also happen very publicly. Repeated hurtful public comments on your kid's TikTok uploads, cruel comments on anonymous messaging apps like Kik or the sharing of embarrassing photos or videos on Instagram can be absolutely devastating to victims.
Kids who are cyberbullied.
There's no way to sugarcoat this – kids who are cyberbullied may endure long-term emotional and psychological distress. Just like other victims of bullying, cyberbullied kids can experience physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach upsets, and they can also struggle academically. But the most worrying impact is on their mental health, with many suffering from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, which can lead to devastating outcomes.
Our hearts break when we read the stories of young people who have taken their lives after being cyberbullied. The deaths of 14-year-old Northern Territory girl Dolly Everett in 2018 and 13-year-old Queensland girl Emily Stick stopped our nation and devastated us all.
How to talk to your kid about cyberbullying.
Bullying existed long before the onset of the cyber world, so as much as it saddens me, I believe we need to accept that bullying is simply human behaviour – clearly the worst type. While anti-bullying campaigns definitely play a role in raising awareness about the issue, our best strategy is to arm our kids with skills and smarts to ensure they can navigate the challenges of their online lives.