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Anti-Bullying Week 2021: How parents can protect their children from cyberbullying



This week marked Anti-Bullying week, where schools up and down the country aim to raise awareness around the issues.

A recent report found nearly one in five children aged 10-15 in the UK experience cyberbullying, equating to approximately 764,000 children.

Online trolling can harm a child’s sense of safety, joy, and trust in others. It can cause them to withdraw from social interactions, anxiety and be closed off in their bedroom, affecting their self-esteem, mental health, and in some cases their body confidence.

Read more: ‘I had to move out of London because it’s so inaccessible and I couldn’t go anywhere in my wheelchair’

Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari, child development expert, psychologist, family therapist, and founder of The Village, an online parenting community empowered by experts paired with Environfone to share tips on how to spot if your child is being bullied online and how to approach the situation.

How to spot the signs your child is being bullied online

Regression in your child’s behaviour

Changes could include but are not limited to anxiety, withdrawal from friends and family, closing themselves off in their bedroom, feeling upset and expressing sadness without a clear reason as to why.

They stop taking part in activities

Many victims of online and offline bullying experience that they no longer participate in activities they used to enjoy. This usually ties in with victims of bullying no longer seeing people that they used to.

Look out for an obsession with being online, checking messages all the time, feeling stressed and anxious if they are not able to do so constantly.

Isolation

Your child may appear to be isolating themselves within the home, expressing anger, or showing an unexpected decline in their schoolwork. The signs can vary in intensity and quantity from one child to the next, but if there is very little joy in their life, or they are trying to avoid school or their usual social life this can be a clear indicator of an issue such as online trolling.

How can parents protect their children from cyberbullying?

Initiate a safe conversation

Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari told MyLondon: “It’s important to have a safe conversation about the situation, and I recommend broaching the subject while you are busy doing another activity, such as walking, cooking, or driving, so the child or teenager doesn’t need to maintain eye contact throughout.”

Dr Ben-Ari continued: “Express your love with kindness and gentleness, alongside your concern for them. Your aim is to not have your child regret sharing their struggle with you, so avoid blaming or shaming, and allow space for the teen or child to talk about what is going on for them and decide on a solution together. “

Get the school involved

Reporting bullying incidents to the child’s school is essential for the bullying to be taken seriously.

There is also a need, between parents and schools, to educate children about online safety.

Show them privacy settings

It is important to educate them about privacy settings on social media, and about not engaging with people they do not know directly and in person.

Dr Ben-Ari said: “Bullying can stop only when enough children and teens are objecting to bullying behaviour. It is about educating children both at home and in school that their voice matters, that if you do nothing as a bystander, it is like agreeing with what is happening.”

She continued saying that parents should not be bystanders to bullying. “If a parent witnesses emotional bullying, depending on the intensity, they can say something like “are you children being kind to each other?”, or in more severe situations something like “I am not feeling comfortable with such behaviour.

“It doesn’t feel kind”, or “Doing nothing would indicate that I approve of your behaviour and I cannot stand back when I feel someone is getting hurt.”

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