The National Bullying Prevention Center reports that more than more than 20 percent of students become the target of a bully at some point during their academic careers. And while bullying is a difficult situation for any child, it is exponentially harder for children who have recently experienced the social and emotional trauma of moving to a new city.
Further exacerbating the situation for adolescents and teens is the issue of cyberbullying, a problem that affects about half of middle and high school students. Cyberbullying takes many forms but revolves around the anonymous nature of technology.
Do You Know if You Child Has Been Harassed?
Your child may be reluctant to confide in you regarding their problems at school. They may fear backlash or ridicule from their new classmates. Encourage open conversations at the conclusion of each school day. Ask your child meaningful questions that require detailed and specific answers. As a parent, use your instincts and, if necessary, ask them what’s going on. If you suspect that your child has become the victim of cyberbullying, check their social media accounts, cell phone, email and other means of communication. Talking to your kids and getting a better sense of their online activity could evensave your child’s life.
If Your Child Has Been the Victim of Cyberbullying, You Can Help
It is important first to understand the underlying reasons why bullies turn against their peers. A study by anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found that about one in three of those who bully people don’t feel that their parents have enough time to spend with them. This study also showed that those who bully are also more likely to feel like their friendships and family relationships aren’t very secure, and those who have expereinced bullying are twice as likely to then bully others. While none of this excuses the behavior, it may help your child understand that it wasn’t something they did or said that caused the situation.
It also helps to create a comforting environment for your child as soon as you move into your new home. Look for ways to offer them relaxing spaces where they can decompress when they get home from school, and encourage tech-free time so their mind can recover from the day’s events. Above all else, make a point to communicate with your child. Give them your full attention, and listen to what they say before interjecting. Keeping lines of communication open is crucial in helping them feel safe and understood.
Protecting Your Child Starts at Home
Technology has fully infiltrated the lives of children as young as six years old (or even younger in some households). But you can help guide your child by being aware of their online activities. For younger children, keep computers in a common area, and consider using parental control software. Talk to them regularly about bullying and watch your reaction upon any revelation; overacting could result in your child being less likely to confide in you in the future. Under-reactions, such as telling them to “shrug it off,” undermines their emotional pain and may cause them further psychological trauma.
Threats of Violence Are Illegal and Should Be Reported to the Authorities
When online bullying transcends simple insults, there may be cause for legal action, and no promises of physical harm should be taken lightly. Though it is difficult to define a true threat, any communications explicitly stating violence against your child should be reported to the local police. If the perpetrator is found to be a real threat, he or she may be prosecuted. The New York Times recently ran an editorial regarding what defined threats on Facebook and other social media – it’s a quick read that may help shed light on the situation. Cornell Law School offers information on interstate communications, which can refer to chat sessions, text messages or other forms of digital contact.
Encourage Positive Relationships
Moving to a new school means having to make new friends, which is hard enough without having to deal with bullies. Encourage your child not to shy away from the rest of the student body by joining groups that may be of interest. For more tips on how to help your child make friends at his or her new school, check out this article from ArtOfHappyMoving.com.
If your child has experienced cyberbullying or is having trouble fitting in at a new school, find a qualified counselor or therapist they can talk to before depression sets in and causes permanent damage.
Laura Pearson and Edutude strive to find unique, creative ways for parents and educators to encourage students to be challenged, motivated and excited by learning.