For some countries, the summer holidays are just around the corner and most school kids are looking forward to taking a break from homework and waking up early. Some of them, however, will enjoy being away from school for altogether less pleasant reasons – to get away from bullies, who bother them offline or online over social networks.
Unfortunately, not every parent can distinguish common teenage difficulties from the red flags raised by insidious peers. As June 17th was Stop Cyberbullying Day, we have prepared a list of indicators that can help parents recognise whether their offspring are being (cyber)bullied.
Snappy answers and moods swings
Frequent moods swings do not necessarily mean that your children are being bothered by their peers. However, if these are accompanied by jumpy and nervous reactions to common questions, especially after disconnecting from the virtual world, it’s time to ask if they are having any trouble.
Parents should not be satisfied with “good” and “fine” responses, as these don’t always mean good and fine. Sometimes you have to dig deeper to find out how your kid really feels about his/her experience online. Watch out for snappy responses – these are another common denominator for many cases of cyberbullying.
Deleted social network account
If your child suddenly quits a favorite social network, be aware. In an age where young people invest significant time to being online and engaging with social media, deleting accounts might be a signal that something serious is going on in their lives. Parental control tools, installed on a child’s device, will give parents a good overview of which apps he/she prefers and frequently uses.
Withdrawing from friends and family in real life
It is only natural that teenagers are trying to become more independent from their parents and thus devote more time into building their own network of friends. Yet, if they distance themselves from the latter, hide from the outside world in their rooms and avoid social media as well as their devices, something is amiss.
Dramatic physical changes
Has your child suddenly lost weight or their appetite? Does he/she have trouble sleeping during the night and look stressed out in the morning? Again, this might be a sign of many things, but if combined with some of the aforementioned points, there is a good chance of bullying either offline or online.
Pretending to be sick trying and to avoid school
“I don’t feel so good.” “My tummy hurts.” “Can I skip school today?” Almost every child uses these excuses from time to time. Be it an exam he/she is not prepared for or just a difficult day at school, it is common to try to avoid whatever is causing distress. However, if your child pretends to be ill too often, there might a more serious issue behind it, such as a fear of an inevitable conflict with the bully.
Article by Ondrej Kubovic, security evangelist at ESET