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Practical advice: how to recognize cyberbullying and protect your child from it

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Cyber-bullying, a teenage virtual terror, got its name from the English word bull - “bull”, with related meanings: aggressively attack, bully, find fault, provoke, pester, terrorize, poison. In youth slang, a verb of similar origin is “bullish”.

Most of us know firsthand about child aggression aimed at disagreeable reputable classmates of peers. Soviet schools also offended frail bespectacles, too clever "little lessons." The object of bullying the comrades at the desk could become because of any nonsense, as soon as the core of the class, led by the leader, united against its victim. Today, when the lion's share of teenagers spend most of their free time on social networks, the problem has reached a new level. Anonymous (and not only) attacks on young users in online communities are gaining momentum. And cyberbullying has already been called a new way of child abuse.

A tragedy almost happened in the family of Marina and Vladimir: by pure chance, the father found his son’s personal diary in the laptop, where he complained about bullying in social networks and wrote that if the “bulling” did not end, he would open his veins. The boy was taken to a psychologist who managed to get the teenager out of depression, having found out the whole background of this story. It turns out that Misha, in VKontakte correspondence, stood up for a girl about whom his online friends shot an offensive video and posted it in the public domain. Child aggression instantly turned towards the defender. Offensive phrases rained about Misha's appearance (the boy suffers strabismus), an evil trolling began in the communities where he was a member. The guy was refinedly brought to a white heat by abusive SMS, vulgar jokes. A very shy, insecure Misha, who was experiencing big problems with establishing contacts with classmates (and therefore more or less comfortable feeling only on social networks), had several weeks of “fun” life in the realities of cyberbullying to seriously think about suicide. Fortunately, the boy was stopped on time.

About a dangerous "bulling" in the network more than ten years ago, they started talking in the USA. It all started with an incident that was not remarkable at first glance. American teenager Gislen Raza shot a video in which he portrayed the hero of the movie Star Wars, using a baseball bat instead of a lightsaber. His classmates, without asking permission, posted a video on the Internet, where millions of people watched the recording. Two years later, a special site was created with this and its clips, special effects and music from films - it attracted more than 76 million visitors. The video featuring Gislen became the 2004 most downloaded file. The label "Star Wars Kid" has so changed his relationship with his peers at school that his parents were forced to go to a psychiatrist and also file a lawsuit against the parents of classmates who posted this video.

Several years ago, Kaspersky Lab explored cyberbullying as one of the phenomena of virtual life. It turned out that almost a third of parents (26%) found out that their child was being harassed much later than this. More than half of fathers and mothers (58%) were eventually forced to intervene to help the baby. Someone closed access to social networks, someone led to a psychologist. 13% of schoolchildren admitted that they had already encountered real bullying in a class or sports group, art school. As a rule, it arose from virtual bullying.

Why do children assert themselves by humiliating others, and how to protect their child from being bullied? Talk about this and much more with the acting head of the Department of Psychology and Management of the Minsk Regional Institute for the Development of Education, psychologist Irina Botyanovskaya:

- The problem of bullying teenagers with peers in social networks, despite its apparent “youth”, has already firmly overgrown with myths. For example, one often hears the opinion that the victim of cyberbullying is “not like that” and “is to blame.” New, thin, tall, red, child - "wheelchair". You can list endlessly. I know a teenage girl who suffered from bullying because she has a grade point average of 9.9 at school! Most often we are talking about relationships that develop in a childish environment. As the Strugatsky brothers wrote in “Lame Fate”: “Who are you friends against?” The difference for which the bully (real or imaginary) is only a pretext for bullying. And the reason in this particular case and in this particular group.

They also say that only unhappy children become the initiators of bullying.

- And this is far from the case. Acts of persecution are known, caused not by affects and the desire to take revenge and assert oneself, but by cold calculation. "Hunters" perfectly cope with anger, know how to behave correctly. You will never suspect a cyberbullying initiator in this amazingly well-bred child. And for others, bullying others is a means of self-defense. By the principle: they offended me - I will offend in response. The bullying initiator and the victim change places. All of us have repeatedly heard stories about "revenge" to our offenders.

Does bullying occur only in childhood?

- This phenomenon has no age and other restrictions. With age, only the forms of its manifestation change. As an example, hazing, or heizing (hazing). Sometimes a novice in a long-established team is subjected to bullying.

Many parents are sincerely convinced that they need to worry only when physical violence occurs. If the child is “trolled” on social networks, this can be experienced, because there is no visible harm.

- There are two types of bullying: direct, physical (shocks, kicks, kicks, beatings, and so on) and indirect, which is also called “social aggression” (insults, nicknames, spreading insulting rumors, slander, spitting in a victim or briefcase, bullying extortion, isolation, boycott). The second type also includes cyberbullying, which is dangerous precisely because of its alleged impunity and permissiveness. As one “troll” boy told me, he scoffs at a classmate on the Internet, and not in real life, because “you can get an insulting word in the eye."

- Can a bullying victim cope with the situation?

- When a person is subjected to enormous psychological stress (and this is exactly the case), he must have a whole arsenal of means to overcome the negative impact. But honestly admit: which of us is so well “armed”? Therefore, you should not justify your inaction by saying: “He must cope himself, this will make him stronger!” Perhaps he will. If not break.

Another misconception: short-term measures (calling the director, parent meeting, etc.) will solve all problems. What definitely should not be done with aggressors is to collect them in groups for group forms of work, whether it be conversation or training. And even more so, it is not necessary to organize a “public flogging” for them and force them to apologize. It is impossible to solve the problem by tightening discipline, removing the buller from school or organizing “therapy” for the victim of bullying. Not a single short-term measure will help here. Bullying is actually a challenge to the whole school. And to cope with this challenge can only long-term systematic work to create an atmosphere of security in the school.

How to react to what is happening to adolescents who have become the subject of cyberbullying?

- First of all, you should not be fooled by a provocation. Because bullying is precisely a provocation. Most likely, the child will not be able to close his eyes to an attempt to intimidate him. In this case, it would be wiser to change the polarity of the event: if it poisons me, it means that it sets me apart from the crowd. So I'm better. I'm done! I should be proud of that! And after this you need to find answers to two questions: what attracted the attention of this person in me and where can I apply this quality for the good, since other people already notice it, although I have not put the least effort into it?

By what signs can parents recognize that their child is a victim of bullying?

- Pay attention to any cardinal changes in the life of a son or daughter (only do not turn into a buller yourself). For example, on the attitude to gadgets. You may be pleased with the fact that the child stopped so often “going” to social networks, but do not take the trouble to find out the reason. In this case, in no case do not turn such a conversation into an interrogation. A change in mood can alarm the situation. Is the schoolboy too sad, or, on the contrary, too cheerful and cheerful for no reason? This behavior can only be a mask. You should also pay attention to anxious sleep, problems falling asleep in the evening and waking up in the morning, various pains. It will never be amiss to find out the reason why a former walker refuses to leave the house. And even more so, the alarming bell is the child’s refusal to attend school.

How, in this case, correctly behave to mothers and fathers?

- I’ll say right away that it’s difficult to resist bullying. After all, in fact, this means going against public opinion. To do this, you need to have remarkable strength of mind. And this barrier, however, like any other, can not be taken abruptly. The ability to resist the will of the majority does not develop in one day. And, most likely, your child will need your help. As the English proverb says: do not raise children, they will still be like you. Educate yourself.

As a long-term recommendation, I can only say one thing: just chat with your children. Do not control, namely communicate. Speak. Chatter. Crack tirelessly. Whether by phone, on Skype or elsewhere. I do not urge everyone to immediately shut up best friends for their children. But at least do not become strangers to them!

Electronic bullying

Cyberbullying can be a text message or a post from pictures, videos and even a fake victim profile. Also, minors are often bullied personally, and it is more difficult for them to avoid this.

But unlike a bully at school, cyberbullying can occur around the clock, even when your child is at home with you. Messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed as soon as possible. It is sometimes difficult or even impossible to find the culprit.

The effects of cyberbullying can be far-reaching. Young victims are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, drop out of school, lose their self-esteem and gain health problems.

What can parents do?

In this situation, psychologists recommend taking the initiative - talk with your children about cyberbullying, including why they should never bully others, and encourage them to immediately tell you about any incident.

Branding or tracking your kids on social media can help you find out if they are becoming victims of unwanted posts.

Additional Parenting Tips

You can also use these tips:

  • Teach your children not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass them or others to avoid retaliation.
  • Check your children's social media pages regularly for signs of bullying.
  • Tell your children to talk to you if a message or image on the Internet makes them feel threatened or hurt.
  • Encourage your children to talk if they see cyberbullying happening to someone else and not engage in bullying by posting.
  • If your child suffers from cyberbullying, print and save screenshots, emails, and texts for proof.
  • He or she should not respond to the bully, but be sure to block or remove him from his friends lists.
  • Block username, email address and phone number.
  • If your child finds a profile that was created or modified without his permission, refer to the site to delete it.
  • Report cyberbullying to your service provider online and visit its security center to block users and limit the number of people who can contact your child.
  • Report to the police.

When to go to the police?

Contact the law enforcement authorities if cyberbullying is associated with such moments:

  • Threats of violence.
  • Child pornography or pornographic message, photographs.
  • Any photograph or video of someone in the place where he or she will be expected.
  • Hate crime.

Also report incidents to your child’s school. The school can use the information to help with tips on preventing cyberbullying and responding to evidence.

Every tenth Russian child becomes a victim of cyberbullying, and often parents are not even aware of this. ROCIT explains how to protect a child from online bullying and how to deal with its possible consequences.

As a phenomenon, bullying has existed almost always, representing various threats, insults, or the dissemination of any data that could expose a person, put him in an awkward position, or even cause a danger to life and health.

Often, bullying occurs offline, for example, in work teams where colleagues want to sit someone. They immediately begin to gossip, complain to the boss and expose the victim in a bad light, so that she would be fired as soon as possible.

With the development of technology, the communication of people is gradually transferred to online, so Internet harassment poses a great danger these days.

The Internet contains a huge amount of information: movies, music, videos and even personal data of users that they themselves share and by which it is very easy to identify. For example, according to a person’s profile on a social network, you can understand where he lives, studies, works, what he does in his free time, find the contacts of his friends and relatives. All this, as well as the confidence of most users that the Internet is a friendly environment where there is no place for insults and humiliation, opens up enormous opportunities for Internet bullying, which is also called cyberbullying.

There are many more detractors on the Web than it seems. There are a huge number of online communities whose members engage in cyberbullying just for fun. Any user can go to the site of such a community, identify the victim and the reason for the persecution, after which a huge number of people will pour on the poor man a continuous stream of dirt and threats. They can even contact the victim’s relatives if their contacts can be found in open sources and send them some incriminating information (for example, candid photos or personal correspondence).

The biggest danger is cyberbullying for children. According to a study conducted by Google, ROCIT, RAEC, FRI in 2017 among adolescents from 14 to 17 years old, it was found that:

  • 46% of these have witnessed aggressive online behavior
  • 44% ever received aggressive messages
  • 17% in a collision with ill-wishers, they turn to parents for help
  • 16% discuss this issue with friends.

Children are very quick-tempered, impressionable, like to assert themselves in various ways, including dishonorable ones. They can fight each other, come up with nicknames to each other and show aggression. It is in schools that the persecution of those who cannot stand up for themselves begins.

By registering on social networks, children communicate online, create thematic groups and discuss in them everything that happens at school. Offensive records in such groups, “merged” correspondence and calls for a boycott of a classmate are the most common forms of cyberbullying among young people.

If we talk about the moral condition of the children, about their behavior, then most often parents see only the tip of the iceberg. In time to understand that a child is being bullied at school can be quite difficult. It is important to catch the bells signaling that the child is in danger, and not to confuse them with ordinary laziness or whims:

  • If a child reluctantly does his homework, becomes closed, uncommunicative, lethargic, constantly in a bad mood, talk to him. Explain that you are not an enemy for him, not an overseer, but one of the closest people and in any situation you will be on his side.
  • Find out what's bothering him. Even if it’s not a matter of bullying at all, you will tune in with the child on the same wavelength, and in the future it will be easier for you to feel and track problems that arise.

If the worst assumptions come true, and the child has undergone cyberbullying, in no case do not panic and do not become aggressive - support him:

  • Control your emotions, because in this situation you become the only and strongest support for the child.
  • Give your child emotional and psychological support. Cheer him up, for example, give something tasty, take him to the movies.
  • Объясните ему ситуацию, расскажите о возможных печальных последствиях для тех, кто занимается травлей, о том, как правильно дать отпор обидчикам и как не принимать неприятные слова близко к сердцу.
  • Сохраните сообщения, аудио и видеозаписи, в которых содержатся оскорбления вашего ребенка. If you understand that bullying is a serious threat, all stored materials must be transferred to law enforcement.

The risk of a child being exposed to Internet harassment can be reduced. To do this, observe technical safety regulations:

  • Be sure to keep track of which sites your child visits on the Internet.
  • Set up parental controls on your gadget or wi-fi router to prevent your child from accessing potentially dangerous forums and communities.
  • Explain that you should not leave personal information on the Internet, such as document data, home address, names and phone numbers of parents and relatives.

In addition to the above, there are psychological adviceto use:

  • Maintain your child’s useful hobbies
  • Talk more with your child and spend time together
  • Maintain a welcoming and pleasant atmosphere in the house, in which it is pleasant to return every day.

Do not forget that cyberbullying exists, it is much more real and dangerous for every person than it seems. The Internet security of you and your children depends on caution, care and compliance with the necessary rules. Better to prevent cyberbullying than to face its dangerous consequences.

The Runet Hotline is a ROCIT social project. Every day, this service of protection and information support for users helps to resolve issues related to poor-quality service, illegal materials, online fraud. During the project, more than 5,000 requests were processed - each of them allowed us to make the Internet more secure for millions of users!

The project was implemented using a grant from the President of the Russian Federation for the development of civil society provided by the Presidential Grants Fund.

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