The new Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner in Australia has recently revealed it had nearly 200 cyberbullying complaints in its first year.
According to ESET, cyberbullying has become a common form of online abuse and many children are still unaware of the dangers online.
The IT security company says that for many parents, it is also a struggle to understand and explain online safety, while also recognising the signs of cyber-bullying in their own children.
Nick FitzGerald, senior researcher at ESET, says that digital technologies in schools play a key role in cyberbullying among children.
“Internet and mobile phone access allows bullies to target people both offline and online very easily, leaving the cyberbullying victims isolated and feeling unsafe,” says FitzGerald.
“Bullying needs to be considered as a serious issue that can also impact families legally and morally,” he adds.
“Parents can even be held responsible if they fail to recognise their child is being bullied, hence the necessity of understanding cyberbullying and the key signs.
ESET advises to watch for these signs:
- Mood swings accompanied by jumpy and nervous reactions to common questions – Parents might need to dig to find out if their children's online experience is going wrong.
- Suddenly quitting social media like Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram – Going from being hyper-active on social media to deleting everything should be treated as suspicious.
- Creating distance with family and friends – There might be something wrong if they start isolating themselves from their closest circles.
- Striking physical changes – Bullying might be a cause of sudden loss of weight or appetite, or of sleeping troubles.
- Trying to avoid school and pretending to be sick – Feeling unsafe or scared because of a bully at school might trigger this reaction.
- Indirect signs such as depression and dark thoughts – These are very strong indicators to watch for and could be crucial to combatting cyberbullying.
FitzGerald adds that parents should talk to their children and be available for help and reassurance.
“In the event of cyberbullying, parents should also document cyberbullies' messages and posts as evidence of their actions,” says FitzGerald.
“Finally, reliable parental control solutions can also give a good overview of what kids are up to online and help parents spot problems faster if they arise.