Article by Hilary Smith
One of the hardest parts of being a parent is watching your child suffer at the hands of a bully. Unfortunately bullying is no longer tied to the playgrounds or school hallways. As a sign of the times, even bullying has gone digital and evolved with technology. In fact, cyberbullying is so prevalent that it is now believed 87 percent of children have witnessed or experienced this new form of aggression.
Bullying Threats For Children With Special Needs
With numbers like those, it’s hard to put on our blinders and believe that our sweet children are safe from the effects of cyberbullying. It is believed that children with ADHD, learning disabilities, food allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, and other special needs are often more vulnerable, because classmates are aware of their differences and they already deal with self-esteem issues.
Unfortunately for many families, children with special needs tend to be targeted at elevated rates when compared to their peers. A study from the British Journal of Learning Support, found that “60 percent of students with disabilities reported being bullied, compared to 25 percent of the general student population”. Other studies found that children with special needs are two to three times more likely to be targeted by bullies.
Signs A Child Is Experiencing Cyberbullying
Bullying, no matter the medium, is devastating on all victims. If you suspect your child is being victimized, here are a few symptoms to be on the lookout for:
- Withdrawal from friends and previous activities.
- Trouble sleeping or bed wetting.
- Clinginess or fears about being separated from you.
- Physical ailments like frequent headaches, stomach aches, and body pains due to stress.
- Dimming the screen or closing tabs on their device when you enter the room.
- A sudden lack of interest in their Smartphone, tablet, gaming console, or computer.
- A fear of school or social settings.
- Angry or aggressive outbursts that are unexplained.
- A drop in grades or functioning levels in school.
Actionable Tips To Help Protect Your Child
Watching a child experience bullying is heart wrenching, but there is hope. According to research, it is believed that most bullying will stop within ten seconds if an adult or peer intervenes.
Here are eleven suggestions to help delete a cyberbullying situation:
- Keep your child’s safety a priority. As a parent, you are the best advocate for your child. Seek help from teachers, administration, and the community if needed. Don’t tolerate threats or aggression aimed at your child, bullying often escalates if nobody takes action.
- Record and document all evidence of cyberbullying. Learn to take screenshots and save messages to build a case against the bully. These files will be necessary if intervention from the authorities or school administration is needed.
- Help your child set their privacy settings on their devices and inform them to keep all passwords a secret- even from their friends.
- Limit technology use to common family areas so you can notice any suspicious activity.
- Encourage children to only friend people on social media who are actually real life and check their friend lists from time to time.
- Make sure a child knows it’s not okay to use or be called “mean” words. This is especially important for children with special needs, because often they are unaware that “friends” are actually being cruel.
- Roleplay reactions and appropriate Bullies typically thrive off reactions from victims. By helping a child learn how to keep their cool and calmly seek help, you are taking away the motivation to be cruel.
- Read all messages or social media accounts with your child. If you suspect your child is a victim of cyberbullying, take the appropriate measures to avoid your child opening cruel messages alone.
- Look for support groups. Help your child deal with these issues by looking for peers that can understand or offer advice. Let them know that they are not alone.
- Consider using monitoring software that allows you to monitor a child’s cell phone, social media, and Internet activity to stay on top of the situation.
- Remind a child that things will get better. Make sure they understand that this is only a rough patch with better times to come. Everyone falls at times, it is all about how we get up that matters.
As parents, we can challenge ourselves to help our children overcome cyberbullying. What is one thing you can do today to protect your child?
This article was written by Hilary Smith, and does not reflect the opinions of IRIS Educational Media. Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.