In today’s digital age, children and teenagers are highly likely to interact with each other more online than they do in person. While this social shift is not of immediate concern, one consequence of it certainly is: cyberbullying. If you are a parent who has a child or teenager, then you should know more about cyberbullying, its signs, and what to do to stop it.
IS CYBERBULLYING JUST ONLINE BULLYING?
In summary, cyberbullying is any form of harassment that is made possible or escalates due to an online presence or connection. Children can be cyberbullied by strangers who threaten them in online video games, or they can be cyberbullied by a classmate who spreads rumors about them through Facebook posts, for example. It is important to realize that cyberbullying is not always isolated to just online incidents. There are many cases in which a teen is first bullied in person and then cyberbullied, or vice versa.
HOW CAN YOU RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF CYBERBULLYING?
In acts of physical or in-person bullying, you might be able to notice it immediately due to physical harm, such as your child coming home with a scraped knee or ripped shirt. Cyberbullying is a little trickier to spot. Without a direct connection to the bully, children who are being cyberbullied may only exhibit signs of emotional distress, which can be subtle.
Your child may be a victim of cyberbullying if:
- They have suddenly stopped playing their favorite game and refuse to play it again.
- They have suspicious or aggressive posts from others on their social media accounts.
- They have deleted or hidden their social media accounts without explanation.
- They are showing mood swings, such as bouts of depression or anxiety.
- They seem fearful whenever around or talking about a certain classmate.
- They have mentioned thoughts of hopelessness or suicide*.
(* Please get your child help if you believe your child is experiencing suicidal thoughts, regardless of whether it is related to cyberbullying. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted online by clicking here, or by dialing 1-800-273-TALK  at any time. There is always a person to talk to and hope at this hotline. There are many qualified mental health professionals who may be able to help your child as well.)
HOW CAN YOU STOP CYBERBULLYING?
As a parent of a child or teenager who may be cyberbullied, you must approach the situation carefully if you want to bring it to an end. The right first step is generally talking to your child about what is going on. Openness, honesty, and compassion from a parent can give a child or teen the encouragement they need to shake the feeling of being bullied.It also gives them an important outlet for frustrations and allows you to have more information to better help them get the resources they need. Try to get as much information as you can from your child about the cyberbullying events without making them feel “interrogated.” You may consider talking to a professional about the best way to approach your child.
If your child is being cyberbullied by a classmate, then you may need to get their school involved. There are many benefits to consulting with an attorney prior to contacting the school. Telling the school about this problem can help by allowing additional people to monitor the interactions between the classmates, and it puts them on notice about the behavior . If they do not take action or promise corrections, then there may be further recourse available.
USING LEGAL ACTION TO END CYBERBULLYING
A legal plan of action may become necessary to protect your child. This is where Coulter Lambson, LLC and our St. Louis family law attorneys can step in and support you.
As highly-experienced family law attorneys with a history of complex case management and a focus on anti-bullying cases, Coulter Lambson can come up with creative solutions to cyberbullying cases. It might even be possible for you and your family to receive compensation if the bullying caused significant harm, or a person or institution of authority failed to reasonably protect your child from the bullying.