The internet and social media make it possible to be connected more than ever. In seconds, we can communicate with people all over the world, on almost every platform imaginable. Is there a downside to this instant access to each other? To mean-spirited people, the internet can be a tool to belittle others, but you can protect yourself and your family from any damage they may cause.
Cyberbullying can happen to anyone
You can find bullies in every corner of the internet and social media, even in groups dedicated to fun hobbies and video games! Don’t let this spoil your fun, though. When it comes to being on the internet, learning how to preserve your family’s privacy and peace of mind is as important as troubleshooting your Wi-Fi.
Protecting kids in digital spaces
Kids are especially susceptible to the mental health damage that cyberbullying causes. Bullies may hide behind anonymous profiles to taunt them, but they may also know the people who are behind their torment. These messages may be comments, chats or private messages and texts from the bullies. To prevent this, teach kids about protecting their privacy from the moment you give them a smartphone.
No Personal Information: Make a rule that your kids will never share info like addresses and personal phone numbers, even if they are talking online with people they consider friends. Cyberbullies can often infiltrate these innocent conversations and use this info to hurt them. Other pieces of information like what school they go to, or talking about people in their lives by name can be used later in hurtful messages, too. Stay aware of what platforms your kids are on and be honest with them that you’ll be checking in on their posts every so often.
They can come to you for help: Most of all, teach your kids that they can trust you to help them. Tell them that you want to know if they are being sent messages that make them uncomfortable. If you notice them become preoccupied with their phones or online messages, check in with them and see how they are doing. Reassure them that you love them often, and tell them that they are an amazing person. When they hear positive things about themselves in real life, it will counteract any negative influence a bully can have over them.
Grown-ups get bullied online, too
Can adults be bullied online? Absolutely! Whenever someone sends messages with harmful intent, it becomes cyberbullying. If you find yourself the target of cyberbullying, you might feel isolated and unable to do anything about it. You might want to stand up for yourself, too. Before you message them back, protect your mental health before anything. Consider making your social media accounts private while you’re being targeted to protect yourself. Block accounts that are sending harassing messages. Also, don’t be ashamed about the fact that you’re being bullied. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can even be transparent on your social media about what you are experiencing. There’s no shame in maintaining your own safety and mental health, and talking about it openly may encourage others to do the same.
Finding support, online and in person
No matter what age you are, being the target of a bully can impact your self-esteem and make you question your value as a person. Online bullying can feel especially overwhelming because it feels like you can’t escape from the messages and texts. Seek help at the first sign of cyberbullying. Most social media platforms have the ability to report hateful messages and comments. If there are threats of violence in the messages, or they are encouraging you to do harm to yourself, take them seriously and contact your local authorities for help. Report harmful messages to your children’s’ administrators at school in case it’s coming from fellow students.
To counteract the isolating effects of cyberbullying, reach out to friends and family members for reassurance. Above all, if the messages being sent are damaging the self-esteem of you or one of your kids, consider speaking with a therapist about what you are going through. The messages may stop, but it’s important to heal the hurt they may have caused, too.