Brighten Youth Education Centre

 

 

Cyberbullying: Spotting the Signs

 

As a parent, teacher or close family friend, you don’t want to invade a young person’s privacy. To do so can cause resentment and sour a potentially caring and trusting relationship. However, young people, particularly teens, aren’t always the chattiest of people. Most adults will recognise the surly grunting, as teens becoming increasingly unwilling to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Yet of course you worry, especially if a young person has seemed out of sorts recently. Is it merely the “normal” pressures of being a teen today, or is it something more troubling? One online blog claims that 43% of kids have been the victim of cyberbulling but only 58% of that number told their parents about it. This week we hope to offer practical advice by discussing some of the signs that might indicate that a young person is being bullied online.

In the case of cyberbulling, more traditional signs like unexplained injuries and missing or ruined property aren’t always helpful, unless a case of bulling has moved from the online world into the physical world. Feeling uneasy about going to school, or pretending to be ill is another crossover sign, as is withdrawing from friends or family in real life. In a more specific online context, a young person might be suddenly agitated after receiving a text, message or email, or they may rapidly shut off or walk away from a computer without explanation. They may be unwilling to share details about their online activity, or have physical symptoms without a cause, including headaches or stomach pains. Suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are a more extreme manifestation, but it is hoped that help would be sought or offered before this point.

Other physical signs include sudden weight loss or gain, a radical change of appearance (for example a new hair colour or cut), and trouble sleeping at night (which may manifest itself in other ways, for example, issues with focusing during the day). In fact, any change in habit could be worrying, as it could indicate anything from the development of body dysmorphia to reoccurring nightmares.

Equally, it is important to check that your child is not bullying others online, although it can be tricky to differentiate the two situations. Signs of this include spending an excessive amount of time online, turning off a computer screen when someone unexpectedly enters the room, or becoming angry and upset if computer or mobile phone privileges are suddenly taken away. Further online support is offered by charities like the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the UK (NSPCC, www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/bullying-and-cyberbullying/signs-symptoms-effects/), and the Office for the Privacy Commission for Personal Data in Hong Kong (www.pcpd.org.hk/english/publications/files/cyberbullying_e.pdf). So remain observant, and always be ready with the offer of a kind word, quiet chat or friendly cup of tea with the teen in your life.

 

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