Cyberbullying can have negative effects on a young person’s self-esteem, social life, and academic performance. Because young people spend much of their time in school, it is possible for changes in their behaviour to first be identified by teachers. – Written by Kele Scheppers.
Cyberbullying is a form of harassment that takes place through SMS, text, emails, instant messaging, apps or social media forums. These are online spaces where people can interact, share, and post content and comments.
It has become easier for bullying to take place online because it is more common for schoolchildren to own smartphones, access social media websites, use interactive gaming platforms and communicate with others using technology.
Even if the child being targeted does not have much of a presence online, it is still possible to be cyberbullied because the bully may say mean or embarrassing things about them online in view of their peers. This includes leaving harmful comments on social threads or sharing visual content that’s demeaning or rude, thus causing the targeted individual emotional distress.
Signs a child may be experiencing cyberbullying
So how can you identify if a child is being cyberbullied? Victims of cyberbullying may suffer a sense of shame, embarrassment, anger, fear, and anxiety, which can affect their behaviour even when they are not online. These can include:
- A decrease in school attendance
- Declining school grades
- Decreasing contribution and engagement in class
- Emotional outbursts arising frequently with schoolmates
- Suddenly changing groups of friends
- Suddenly shutting down a computer or putting away a phone as soon as a teacher appears
- Exhibiting anxiety or anger when using phones or computers
- Becoming withdrawn or depressed
- Losing interest in people or activities
- Avoiding extramural activities and social situations which they once enjoyed
Teachers can start by discussing cyberbullying with students and showing them practical specific examples of the behaviour. Digify Africa’s WhatsApp bot, Kitso, provides visual examples of cyberbullying to assist teachers.
If you think a child is being cyberbullied, notify their parents and speak to them about it privately. You can also use this opportunity to show the child how to report cyberbullying online – Kitso also offers a step-by-step guide on how to report cyberbullying and harassment on Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to direct the child to a school guidance counsellor or administrator who can help them learn how to cope with the emotional effects of cyberbullying.
To understand children’s digital behaviour and how it relates to cyberbullying, increase your digital awareness. You can add Digify Africa’s educational bot, Kitso, to your WhatsApp to learn more about using the internet safely, digital citizenship and reporting online harassment.