October is National Bullying Awareness Month, an important issue to address in today’s culture due to the insidious nature of cyber bullying. Physical bullying still happens in school yards and in school hallways, on buses and on walks to and from school, yet the advent of the Internet and social media has created another place for bullying to occur.

Cyber Bullying – What You Can Do to Prevent It from Happening to Your ChildrenWith cyber bullying, pre-teens and teenagers in particular can be exposed to insulting, derogatory language and aggressive and passive-aggressive comments online and even “campaigns” launched against them by bullies. Because there are no physical signs of abuse from cyber bullying, this form of menacing and cowardly behavior from one young person to another can go on for long periods of time and parents may not even realize it is happening.

Remember, teens are particularly vulnerable to self-esteem problems during their adolescent years and cyber bullying not only targets those problems, it victimizes them online in front of their peers on social media sites like Facebook. The effects can be very damaging to sensitive young people. There have been national news stories centered on teens and even pre-teens that harmed themselves and even worse from the effects of cyber bullying.

How to Recognize If Your Child Is Being Harassed Online

If you older child or teenager suddenly stops using their computer or cell phone, there may be a reason for this behavior. Perhaps they are receiving threats or insults from someone they know, or even from a stranger. Sometimes a cyber-bully has created a false persona to hide behind, and is indeed someone your child knows but who has disguised themselves with a new online I.D. in order to remain undiscovered.

If your child acts anxious or nervous when they receive a new email or text message or they seem afraid or uncomfortable about going outside or going to school, they may be experiencing harassing cyber messages. Lastly, if they appear upset or even angry after using their tech devices or don’t wish to discuss what they’re doing online with you or others, this can mean they’re being bullied by someone online.

Such actions from a bully can be harmful and should not be ignored – older children and teens can become depressed, withdrawn, hostile and even suicidal due to this kind of treatment from peers. Cyber bullying should not be ignored in the hopes it will “go away.”

What Parents Can Do About Cyber Bullying

First off, once you recognize that your child is a victim of cyber bullying, you need to show them that you love them and that you are on their side against the bullying. You also need to convey to your son or daughter that you want the bullying to cease as much as they want it to stop. You can also reach out to the bully’s parents or guardians to let them know what is happening.

Having a conversation with school officials or your child’s favorite teacher can also help, as they can then begin to watch out for your child and their behavior in the classroom. If there have been physical threats made against your child online or via their cell phone, you can certainly get the police involved and file a police report – oftentimes the bullying party has little idea they are disturbing your child as much as they are, since the bullying happens online and they can’t see the actual reaction of the victim.

Monitoring your child’s Internet activity with an Internet security program and setting parameters for what it allows into your home is also a good idea. In general, the most important factor is to have a good heart-to-heart discussion with your child and help them to put the bullying in perspective.

Long after the bully has left your son or daughter’s life, your child will continue to have adventures and to learn and grow. Bullying will become a thing of their past and you can help them to deal with it in a healthy manner.

Shannon-McCarty-Caplan-150x150Shannon McCarty-Caplan is a Consumer Security Advocate at Trend Micro. Shannon has over a dozen years of experience helping consumers find the security solutions they need to protect their families, privacy and critical data with internet security software.  Shannon is a news junkie with a BA in Journalism from the University of Arizona.  On most days, you can find Shannon tweeting or blogging about security issues impacting women and families or geeking out on the latest new tech toys.  Shannon resides on the North Coast (Chicago) and spends her free time volunteering for two non-profit organizations, studying foreign languages and traveling with her husband.

Read more on bullying. 

 Cyber Bullying – What You Can Do to Prevent It from Happening to Your Children