Schools are closed, kids and teens are home and they are required to observe social distancing. This has given them access and increased the time spent in front of digital devices more than they have ever been.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been an increase in kids and teens using digital platforms not just for their personal use but also for educational purposes, communication and entertainment. Inadvertently, children are likely to be exposed to bullying either as a victim or as perpetrators on cyber space with the increased usage of smart phones and social media.
Nowadays, pupils and students spend time learning and communicating online through various sites such as Zoom, Web Ex, Google Classroom assignments, Moodle, Minecraft for homeschooling and Microsoft Office 365 Home Schooling pilot program. Recently, Zoom was reportedly hacked and online business meetings were attacked with hateful and inappropriate comments. If Zoom is that easy to hack into, it is likely to expect kids and teens trying to follow suit to hack or attack others online.
who cannot sleep, or who have completed their home studying may find additional
screen time attractive and if the opportunity presents itself, cyberbullying
can become one of their activities.
Cyberbullying is a great concern. Although cyberbullying has been around for a long time, we are living in unprecedented times and when kids are stressed out and bored the opportunity to cyberbully is present.
Cyberbullying Warning Signs to look out for
Parents may be exhausted and not paying attention to what their kids are doing online during non-school hours. Parents and caretakers should be on alert for behavior changes and other signs that a child is being bullied or bullying others.
Signs Your Child May Be a Cyberbully
Signs can include:
- Has a history of bullying, or has been the target of bullying themselves
- Avoids conversations about computer and cell phone activities
- Uses multiple online accounts
- Switches screens or close programs when you, or others, are nearby
- Shows excessive use of the computer and/or cell phone
- Becomes overly upset if access to computers or cell phone is restricted or denied
Signs Your Child Is a Victim of Cyberbullying
Signs can include:
- Loss of interest in the computer and cell phone
- Won’t talk about why their avoiding their computer and cell phone
- Gets tense and stressed out when receiving e-mail, text or instant message
- Withdraws from family and friends
- Is reluctant to attend school and other activities.
- Becomes sad, angry and/or frustrated, and seems to worry a lot
- Grades decline
- Show changes in their eating and/or sleeping habits
While there have not been any formal reports of an increase in cyberbullying, children who bully have not discontinued their behavior. It is unrealistic to think they would suddenly stop being cyberbullies. If they have cyberbullied before COVID-19 there is no reason to think that they would stop now.
What Can Parents and Educators Do?
- Kids should be taught that if they would not say something to someone’s face, they should not say it to them online, through texting, or posting in any other way.
- Communicate with your kids and teens. Let them know that it’s okay to come to you if they are being cyberbullied. Encourage them to tell you immediately if they are being digitally harassed, cyberbullied, cyberstalked or if they’ve been approached by a predator. Tell them you won’t be angry about anything. You just want to help them.
- During this unprecedented time where kids are spending their days online, Parents should keep close tabs on all online interactions and encourage students to send you screenshots or screen recordings of any rule violations they see to help you investigate and facilitate takedowns of problematic or abusive content.
- Be sure to keep your home computer(s) out in the open, such as a family room or kitchen.
- Encourage your child to alert you if they are aware of others who may be or have fallen victims of similar behaviour.
- Explain that cyberbullying is harmful and unacceptable. Discuss appropriate online behaviour and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behaviors.
- Although it’s important to install parental control filtering software, it’s just as important for you to monitor your child’s computer. You want to respect your children’s privacy yet; your child’s safety may override these privacy concerns. Tell your child that you are not spying on them but you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern.
Cyberbullying during COVID-19 – Stomp out Bullying (2020). Retrieved on 28/05/2020 from https://www.stompoutbullying.org/blog/cyberbullying-during-covid-19/
Stomp Out Bullying (2005-2020). Tip Sheet – Signs your Child may be a Cyberbully. Retrieved on 10/06/2020 from https://www.stompoutbullying.org/get-help/parents-page/tip-sheet-signs-your-child-may-be-cyberbully
Stomp Out Bullying (2005-2020). Tip Sheet- Signs your child is a victim of cyberbullying. Retrieved on 10/06/2020 from https://www.stompoutbullying.org/get-help/parents-page/tip-sheet-signs-your-child-cyberbully-victim/
Source: Public Affairs Unit Desk