According to Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours a day online, while preteens average about six. Given that even well-adapted kids spend so much of their lives online texting, posting on social media and playing video games, it’s sadly no surprise that digital bullies exist too.
5 Signs Your Child is Being Cyberbullied
The following list is by no means all-inclusive. If you have suspicions that your child may be a victim (but does not exhibit any of the indicators on this list), please try talking with them anyway.
Their Grades Drop
Bullying can be extremely stressful on the victim. It’s extremely common for the victims of cyberbullying to begin falling behind on homework, failing tests, even cutting class altogether.
Many former ‘A’ students who experience bullying online may suddenly show a complete disinterest, or total aversion, to school. That’s because the pain, embarrassment and shame associated with the teasing or abuse transforms school from a safe space of learning and social interaction to a hostile prison. Keep a very close eye on their performance, and step in when the grades across the board start changing for the worse.
Changes in Eating Habits
Changes in your child’s eating habits, combined with a sudden change in weight can be easily overlooked, as all children develop physically in different ways. That said, if you notice your child has begun losing weight or showing a lack of interest in food, this can be a very serious sign of the depression associated with bullying.
For example, many victims of cyberbullying skip lunch as the lunchroom has become a cruel, unsafe place. Make sure your child is eating enough and getting the nutrition they need, and don’t be afraid to be suspicious if they keep claiming they “aren’t hungry.”
Unexplained Injuries or Marks
While cyberbullying happens online, if the bully is a schoolmate, the abuse can easy carry on in person. It can also become physical, and be very, very serious.
If you child has unexplained bruises, cuts or wounds, it’s imperative that you get to the bottom of it. Most likely they will try to explain it away out of shame or embarrassment. Don’t let them.
Upset After Using Device
When your child does get time to text or play games online, it should be a pleasant, relaxing, fun experience. If they are receiving nasty texts or getting teased on social media, that can all change overnight.
Be on the lookout for signs of distress in their face during or after they are using their phones or laptops, and make sure you find out what’s up. This is also where parental control apps can come in handy. If you notice strange phone numbers coming up, be sure you reverse search them to search for who’s behind them.
Cyberbullying is often extremely traumatic for victims, and that can result in illnesses real or feigned.
Some children do end up faking illnesses more often as they want to get out of school and avoid uncomfortable or painful situations. Others, however, do end up taking ill and complain of stomach pains or headaches. Psychological distress can easily cause real physical distress. Take them to their doctor and find out for sure.
Don’t Wait – Act Now.
While these are just five, there are many more warning signs you need to be looking for as a parent.
According to the i-Safe Foundation, 42% of young kids and teens have been bullied online. What’s more worrying, well over half of kids who have experienced cyberbullying do not report it to their parents. That means it’s up to you as the parent to identify the warning signs and step in.
If you feel like there is something “off” or simply not right about your child’s behavior, trust your instincts and step in.