Written by Bianca Louw

Recent surveys suggest that 3.2 million learners are bullied yearly in South Africa. This is a tremendous amount of children and teenagers. Sadly, less than 33% of these children will ask for help, as they do not think it would change their situation.

Technology has added extra complications as more and more cyberbullying takes place every year. Cyberbullying can occur anywhere through emails, texts or social media sites. Victims of cyberbullying often feel hurt, humiliated, angry, depressed or even suicidal.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when one individual uses any form of digital or online platform (e.g. emails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms), to harass, threaten or humiliate another individual. Cyberbullies can be anyone who has an internet connection or cellular phone, and often these bullies hide behind false identities. Cyberbullies can torment their victims 24 hours a day, their victim always just a few clicks away. Cyberbullying can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online.

What to do if you are a victim of cyberbullying?

  • Do not respond. If someone bullies you, remember that your reaction is usually exactly what the bully wants. It gives him or her power over you. 
  • Do not retaliate. Responding with similar threats reinforces the bully’s behaviour. Help avoid a whole cycle of aggression.
  • Save the evidence. Online messages can usually be captured, saved and shown to someone who can help. Save evidence even if it is minor, cyberbullying can escalate.
  • Block the bully. Use preferences or privacy tools to block the person. If it happens while you are chatting, leave the “chatroom.” Report any abusive comments to the social media website administrators.
  • Reach out for help. Talk to a friend or a trusted adult who can help.

How do you know if your child is being bullied?

Only one out of 10 children will talk about their experience, this is why it is important for you to know the signs.

Your child may be the victim of cyberbullying if he or she:

  • Shows negative emotions after using the Internet or a cellular phone.
  • Appears anxious when receiving a text, email or have been on social media websites.
  • Avoids discussions about computer or cellular phone activities.
  • Withdraws from family, friends and activities they previously enjoyed.
  • Refuses to go to school.
  • Changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, appetite, or shows signs of depression or anxiety.

If you notice any of the above warning signs talk to your child and share your concerns in an open and safe environment. Get advice from your school counsellor, or nearest social worker office on how to deal with the cyberbully.

How to prevent cyberbullying.

  • The only way to protect your child is to monitor their internet activity. Setup your computer space in a busy area of your house.
  • Get an IT professional to setup filters on your computer, tracking software can block inappropriate web content and help you check your child’s online activities.
  • Learn common acronyms children use online and in text messages.
  • Encourage your child to tell you or another trusted adult if they receive threating messages.

Is your child a cyberbully?

If you suspect that your child is a cyberbully you can help your child find better ways to deal with their emotions. Talk to a therapist, school counsellor, religious leader or your local social worker to help your child cope with their emotions in a healthy way.

  • Understand why your child is behaving this way, sometimes victims become bullies as a way of protecting themselves.
  • Educate your child on cyberbullying, help them understand that their actions are hurtful and damaging to others. Help your child look at their actions from the victim’s perspective, and remind your child that cyberbullying could have serious legal consequences.
  • Let your child know that you will be monitoring their internet activity. If necessary, remove all access to the internet and technology until their behaviour improves.
  • Set clear boundaries and rules to encourage healthy behaviour. Lack of boundaries may let your child feel that they are unworthy of your time, care and attention. Boundaries keep children save, and help them thrive.

Say no to bullying and let us create save and emotionally healthy environments where our children can thrive.

More information available on: Saferschools and South African Police

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