According to a recent 2019 Google survey, teachers reported that cyberbullying is the number one safety concern in their classrooms. With an ever-expanding digital sphere, educators are finding it increasingly difficult to regulate and monitor how children and teens are interacting online.
Micah Raskin, whose philanthropic career has recently shifted focus towards raising awareness for cyberbullying, is very outspoken about the impact it is having on our children’s mental health. Micah Raskin explains that for concerned parents, who may not know how to identify when a child is being bullied online, it is important to identify some key signs. Micah Raskin is here to outline those signs for you.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying or harassment that uses the internet or text messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumors, or harass someone—and it is more common than you might think. Nearly half of all young people (47%) have received intimidating, threatening, or cruel messages online. While the direct connection between intensive social media use and mental health has yet to be drawn, of the children currently experiencing mental health issues, 68% say they have experienced cyberbullying in the last year. Micah Raskin explains that that is no coincidence. The best way to support your child or teen is to become educated on the signs and signals.
1. They are physically distancing themselves from others
The first sign that Micah Raskin encourages parents to look out for could be the most obvious: not wanting to go to school or leave their home. While a general lack of desire to go to school may seem like typical behavior for a child or teenager, it can be a warning sign that they are uncomfortable in their school environment or being around their classmates. If your child continuously makes up excuses for not being able to attend school, it is best to speak with them directly. It is important to remember that they may feel ashamed, embarrassed, and uncomfortable about being bullied, and so if they do not immediately open up about it, be patient. Let them know that if they ever need to talk, you are there to help them figure it out. Micah encourages you to discuss the potential issue with their teachers, asking them to be another set of eyes and ears.
2. They are uncomfortable using social platforms
Micah Raskin explains that it may be useful to keep a watchful eye on how your child interacts with media on varying devices. If they become nervous, uneasy, or anxious when they are texting or using social media, it may be a sign that they are experiencing cyberbullying. Micah Raskin explains that since social media is so new, it might be useful to set guidelines around their use in order to create healthy boundaries and habits. If they are protective of their screens, becoming nervous when you come in viewing range, that may also be cause for concern. A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that reducing social media use to 30 minutes a day resulted in a significant reduction in levels of anxiety. It may be useful to instill this in your children from a young age.
3. They exhibit signs of depression
Micah Raskin explains that you should do your best to keep an eye out for any signs of depression. This includes unexplained weight loss, headaches, stomach-aches, trouble eating, difficulty sleeping at night, sleeping during the day, and a loss of interest in hobbies or activities that they once loved. Your child, no matter what age, is going through a lot of changes, so it may be hard to identify these shifts in behavior, but keep a close eye as ‘turning inwards’ and disconnecting from things they once loved can be a sign that something is wrong.
Recognizing there is a problem
If your child used to be a social butterfly but is now spending all of their free time at home or retracting from family and friends, this may be a sign of cyberbullying. Children will naturally recoil from activities that involve people who may be bullying them. Micah Raskin explains that getting your child to open up can be as simple as planning a family game night or outing to boost their mood.
Lastly, Micah Raskin explains that if your child mentions self-harm or suicide, you should contact a professional and get the school involved immediately. Even passing statements should not be taken lightly. It is important to remind them that your involvement and actions are borne out of love and concern for their wellbeing. Cyberbullying impacts everyone differently, so do your best to keep your eyes open for the signs and signals. Foster an open relationship with your child so they feel like they can approach you if they ever feel bullied.
By Jaime Cartwright