What comes to mind when you think of bullying? A group of big kids taunting a younger child on the playground? A child being intimidated by a classmate in an empty hallway at school? Maybe you envision an insult scrawled on a locker door, or a cruel note slipped inside the locker. While these are all forms of bullying, we are now in an era where cyberbullying is a common form of harassment.
According to Helpguide.org, cyberbullying occurs when someone uses the internet, emails, messaging, social media, or other technology to threaten or humiliate another person. Unlike the scenarios above, cyberbullying can occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because face-to-face contact isn’t required. Cyberbullies don’t need physical strength and may often be anonymous.
We know that feelings of safety and trust are essential when bonding with a child who has joined your home through adoption, foster care, or relative caregiving. What can you do to ensure the child in your care will let you know if they are being bullied online? First, create an environment in which they are comfortable speaking with you. Daily general conversation about their day will allow you to have consistent information about how school is going and who their friends are and may make it more likely that they will drop a hint or come to you openly if cyberbullying is occurring.
To be proactive, look for signs of anxiety after your child receives a text or instant message. Do they have a sudden mood shift to anger or sadness after being on their computer or phone? When you see these behaviors, address the issue through gentle questioning. The child may not open up immediately, but they know that the door is open when they’re ready. A child who has a history of not feeling protected may feel that there is nothing that can be done. Show them that cyberbullying is to be taken seriously and you are there to protect them.
From the Resource Library
- Betty Stops the Bully, by Lawrence Shapiro
- Trauma-Proofing Your Kids – A Parent’s Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience, by Peter A. Levine & Maggie Kline
- Tip Sheet: School Issues and Bullying: How LGBTQ+ Parents Can Support Children