Bullying Hurts: How to Protect Your Child from Cyberbullying

?????????????????????????????In the interconnected world we live in, bullying doesn’t stop at the playground. It’s happening 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the teen population is especially vulnerable.

Cyberbullying affects about 25 percent of teenagers and occurs when the offender uses electronic technology such as smartphones, computers and tablets to bully another person.

The effects of cyberbullying cannot be ignored—in fact, kids who are cyberbullied are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, skip school and have lower self-esteem.

So what can you do as a parent to protect your child from cyberbullying?

Here are few tips from Jeanette Hoelzer, a social worker with The Children’s MOSAIC Project, a program of the Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois.

  1. Talk to your children. Open up communication with them so they feel comfortable talking to you. Try to find out as much as possible about the situation, like when it started, where it’s happening and what’s being said. The more information you know the better.
  2. Look for warning signs. Warning signs of bullying, cyber or otherwise, include skipping school, receiving poor grades or having lower self-esteem. If the symptoms continue, it could also indicate a mental health issue.
  3. Monitor technology use. Monitoring phone and other electronic device usage can help encourage breaks from social media, giving your child that automatic out to not get sucked into the drama that has potential to unfold online.
  4. Teach your child to stick up for themselves. Often parents tell their children to just ignore the bullying and it will stop. Instead, teach your child assertive communication and social skills. This is a good way to combat bullying by being assertive, but not aggressive.

Often children who are being bullied feel helpless and don’t want to tell their parents because they are afraid the bullying could become worse. If your child is anxious all the time, appears sad frequently or you think they could cause self-harm, please consult a mental health professional. The Children’s Center is available to help children with anxiety and other behavioral health issues so they can grow up healthy and happy. For more information, call 757-7700 or visit MHCCI.org. Walk-in assessments for children and adolescents are available.

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