Cyberbullying – A New Threat to Young People’s Mental Health


Following on from our founder Floss Knight’s ‘How to Help Your Bullied Child: A Parent’s Guide’, we wanted to investigate an area that is not as widely understood, but is something that is seriously affecting the mental wellbeing of children: Cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a problem which is on the rise but has not been given much attention by mainstream media. Older versions of media and adults in general are often in the dark about issues to do with younger generations and the internet, and as such cyberbullying has been neglected. However, recently, the topic has gained some traction in the national conversation, and for anyone looking to understand the problem, Channel 4’s Cyberbully, first broadcast in January 2015, would be a good place to start.

What is cyberbullying?

So what is Cyberbullying? Cyberbullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through your mobile phone. This can be in the form of social media, silent phone calls and abusive messages amongst other nefarious and intimidating tactics used. The end goal is to tease, torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass, ostracise or generally bully the victim. For schools, it is difficult to monitor and maintain discipline over this issue, as unless the acts are done on school networks, then they cannot keep track of who is doing what. So too, some young people manipulate the anonymity the internet affords in order to cyberbully ‘from a safe distance’.

What can cyberbullying do to a young person’s mental wellbeing? And how can I help my child?

Cyberbullying can be blamed for playing a distinct role in the growing numbers of young people who experience anxiety and depression, and this number is ever increasing as a lack of awareness and understanding is preventing young people from getting help from the people who can help them.

As a parent, it’s been said that cyberbullying is a lot more difficult to detect than ‘traditional’ bullying. Indeed, there are no cuts and bruises online. So too, if you were to try and investigate yourself and got a hostile reaction from your child well, a young person being protective over a mobile device or being secretive about what they are getting up to online isn’t too far removed from the norm, so that makes it very difficult for parents to pick up on what is going on. However, as a parent, you can still look out for all the tell-tale signs that something isn’t quite right. As Floss Knight pointed out in her Parent’s Guide, a child who is the victim of cyberbullying will still in all likelihood display all the signs which a parent should be vigilant for.

Signs your child is a victim of cyberbullying :

They seem withdrawn and are quiet (or quieter than usual)

They have low self-esteem

Signs of self-harm

Not being included or engaged within their ‘friendship group’

Not participating in usual activities, both at school and extra-curricular

Change in eating, whether a lack or excess of

Lack of energy

Perhaps the most important point raised by Floss, and this goes for all forms of bullying, is that ‘if you do have any concerns about your child, act on them, because nothing is lost by showing concern.’ This new form of bullying which is even harder to detect simply means as a parent, you must be more vigilant, and work harder than ever to have a good communicative relationship with your child, even if they are being a stereotypical teenager. You should not smother your child, but nothing is more important than their wellbeing. And in regards to their mental health, acting sooner rather than later can save them from experiencing far greater issues further on in life.

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