As phones and ipads become a bigger part of our children’s lives, so does cyberbullying. According to a recent online study, 3 out of 4 children have been bullied online in Singapore. The average age for a child to receive their first internet connected device is 8 years, two years younger than the global average, putting younger children at an even greater risk of exposure to online abuse.
Cyberbullying is emerging as a bigger threat as it enables the perpetrator to attack their victim 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can reach them anywhere. Unfortunately, children are less likely to report cyberbullying as they are concerned their devices will be taken away to help stop the bullying.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is an umbrella term encompassing bullying behavior against a victim via electronic communication. There are many different types but they all set out to isolate and hurt the victim. Below are the most common types:
- Exclusion – leaving someone out of a chat group deliberately.
- Harassment – a sustained and constant pattern of hurtful or threatening online messages sent with the intention of doing harm to someone.
- Outing/Doxing – openly revealing sensitive or personal information about someone without their consent for purposes of embarrassing or humiliating them. For example, posting sensitive/personal pictures.
- Cyberstalking – a particularly serious form of cyberbullying that can extend to threats of physical harm to the child being targeted.
- Fraping – accessing a person’s social networking account to post inappropriate content with their name.
- Masquerading – masquerading happens when a bully creates a made up profile or identity online with the sole purpose of cyberbullying someone. This could involve creating a fake email account, fake social media profile, and selecting a new identity and photos to fool the victim.
- Trolling – trolling is when a bully will seek out to intentionally upset others by posting inflammatory comments online.
- Flaming – posting or directly sending insults and profanity to their victim, coaxing them into an online fight.
How does cyberbullying affect children?
As with all forms of bullying, cyberbullying can have a significant impact on a child’s physical and mental well being. It can affect their ability to form relationships and can damage their self esteem. Alarmingly, a systematic study conducted in 2018 in the UK looked at all current evidence published on cyberbullying and self harm. Their analysis showed that victims of cyberbullying were twice as likely to self harm or show suicidal behavior.
Signs your child may be a victim of cyberbullying
Worryingly children are less likely to tell parents and school teachers that they are being bullied online than they are offline. Below are a few signs which may indicate that your child is being targeted by cyberbullies:
- They become upset, sad or angry after being online or using their phones
- They become increasingly withdrawn
- Refusing to go to school or reporting symptoms of illness so they can stay at home
- Refusing to participate in normal activities
- An unexplained decline in school grades
- Showing signs of low mood, depression, anxiety or self harm.
What can parents do to help?
- Create an open environment where your child feels they can talk to you about bullying without the fear of their phones/devices being taken away
- Discuss the importance of privacy and being internet savvy
- Work together with your child to tackle the bullying behavior
- Escalate and involve teachers/school/police if needed
- If your child shows any signs of change in behavior or self harm then seek medical help so your child can be assessed and receive help as needed.
There are some good online support sites which you may wish to visit and you can always seek out a Doctor to assist.
Singapore based information: https://bullyfree.sg/cyber-bullying/
UK based website: https://www.bullying.co.uk/cyberbullying/
Australian based site – https://au.reachout.com/bullying/cyberbullying
Dr Gina Dahel is a UK trained paediatric doctor who sees children and young people in her clinic every day.
Please call 6887 4440 to make an appointment.