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Is your child a cyber-bullying victim?

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In Part 2 of our series on cyber-bullying, LAURENCE SEBERINI offers advice on how to be connected to your child and how to identify the symptoms of cyber-bullying in your child.

It is vital that your relationship with your child is not only one in which you are seen as a parent, but one in which you are also seen as a confidant. Here are ten tips for connecting with your child and identifying the symptoms of cyber-bullying: 1. It is vital to keep in touch with your child and what he or she is doing. Communication is everything. 2. Make sure you keep yourself well informed of the various social networking sites currently popular. Visit these sites every now and again so that you are aware of what type of networking takes place on each specific site. If you don’t know what sites your child visits, casually ask or, alternatively, ask his ot her friends to show you the latest chat sites. 3. Any changes in your child’s behaviour, leading to obvious signs of depression and anxiety, should be noted. If your child suddenly stops attending social activities with his or her peers, ask what the problem is. 4. If your child breaks contact or avoids contact with all his or her friends, ask questions. 5. If your child’s friends stop coming over for visits, stop phoning, etc, chances are your child is being alienated for a reason. Find out what it is. 6. If your daughter suddenly starts starving herself and weighing herself every evening, ask her why she is suddenly unhappy with her body: something might have been said. 7. If your son suddenly starts doing 500 push-ups at night, ask him why he is trying to ‚bulk up‚ . 8. Make sure you have a good and open relationship, not only with your child, but with his or her friends as well. This will enable you to approach them, should you have any concerns about your child. Remember: Spying on your kids and interfering with their friends is NOT the intention! The fact is, your child’s friends will be the first to know if your child is being targeted, unless the friends are the ones DOING the targeting (which is often the case). Having a good relationship with these friends does allow you insight you would not have had otherwise. 9. When a child is being bullied, taunted or abused online, chances are it is being carried out by someone your child knows, someone from your child’s social circle, a fellow pupil, etc. This is why any changes in your child’s social behaviour should be questioned. Bullied children start to withdraw, and this withdrawal is not usually a subtle withdrawal, but a sudden and knee-jerk withdrawal. Chances are your child will not want to tell you about the bullying, as he or she will be ashamed, hurt and terrified of repercussions should you (as a parent) want to take further action. 10. An effective way of monitoring your child’s status online is making sure that your child has an aunt, uncle, or other adult person they really like and respect as a friend on sites or applications like Facebook and BBM. Every child needs a ‚cool‚ adult in their lives. This ‚cool‚ adult will usually be deemed cool enough and acceptable enough to be considered a ‚friend‚ , which will result in the child happily adding this adult on Facebook. This indirectly allows this adult to monitor your child’s online profiles ‚ and pick up on any changes in your child’s mood and behaviour. If your child is the victim of cyber-bullying, Facebook profiles and BBM status messages will give some indication of this. Once you have confirmed that your child is a victim of cyber-bullying, your responsibility as a parent is to start managing the situation effectively.

* Next in the series, we will look at how to combating cyber-bullying, while protecting your child from the wrath of the bully. See Part 1, on the types of cyber bullying, here.

Read more of Laurence Seberini’s writings on the topic at www.cellphonesafety.co.za

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