With the proliferation of internet sites, social media sites and the many devices which allow you access to it, there has been a rise in a new kind of bullying – cyber bullying.

Bullying now no longer takes place at school, on the street or in playgrounds. It can happen at any time of the day or night at home, or even when you and your children are out of the country and on a holiday.

Cyber bullying is a form of bullying which is extremely damaging because it follows you around relentlessly. Victims genuinely have no safe haven and no possibility of respite. In extreme cases, victims have been driven to suicide by cyber bullies.

How Do You Recognise Cyber Bullying?

Cyber bullying is surprisingly common, even in a small country like Singapore. According to the Media Literacy Council: “Survey data in in Singapore suggests that about three in ten school children and youths have experienced cyber bullying...”

Cyber bullying occurs online and through the use of electronic devices. Technology is used to harass, threaten, embarrass or hurt another person. It may involve 1 or more of the following aggressive and hurtful actions directed towards a victim.

  • Texts, tweets, messages, or responses to social media posts which are cruel, hurtful, mean or harsh.

  • Posting damaging or hurtful information, photos or videos about someone online.

  • Spreading rumours online.

  • Creating a fake account, webpage or online persona solely to bully someone.

  • Ignoring or ostracising the victim online.

What Makes Cyber Bullying Different?

Cyber bullying is especially distressing because it happens 24 hours a day and it can happen to the victims anywhere they are as long as they are connected to the internet. The bully does not have to be in the vicinity of the victim for it to happen.

The damaging effects and messages of the cyber bully can be spread very quickly across a wide network of people because the internet is so open and immediate.

Once posted, it is very hard to remove all trace of these damaging stories, posts, photos or videos. So even if the bullying stops, evidence of the bullying is likely to remain on the internet to  haunt and continue to distress the victim long after the event is over. 

Signs of Cyber Bullying

Most of the signs of cyber bullying in children will be similar to those seen when children are bullied at school or elsewhere in the physical world. Symptoms such as withdrawal, depression, anger, nervousness and disturbed sleep cycles, falling grades and school refusal are common. In addition to these, you might notice some other symptoms:

  • Being secretive about their digital life or activities.

  • Getting emotionally upset after using the computer or mobile phone.

  • Getting nervous or jumpy about receiving texts or messages on their mobile phone or when other people around them receive messages.

What You Can Do

If you find out that your child is being cyber bullied immediately offer them your support and let them know that cyber bullying is wrong, and that you love them and will address this problem together with them.

Block the Bully
The first step you need to take is to ensure that the bully is cut off from your child. Most devices allow you to restrict access to certain people. Tell your child to ignore all messages from the bully if they do get any. 

Save the Evidence
Save any pictures, photos and texts which can be used as evidence of cyber bullying. These may take the form of screen shots, or copies of a web page, video or photo which have been sent. Make a note of the names of those involved and the times and dates which these have occurred on.

Report the Cyber Bully to the School Authorities
Report the cyber bully to the school authorities, or any other relevant authorities. There are usual protocols in place which may include discipline and counselling to address this issue. 

Limit Access to Technology
Tempting as it might be for your child, keep them away from technology for a while. They will often be tempted to keep logging on to see what has been said about them, but this only leads to a further cycle of misery and victimisation. 

Be a Part of Your Child’s Online World
Become a part of your child’s social circle. Ask to be a friend or a follower on the sites they are on. But be an unobtrusive observer, someone who is there to back them up and to identify problems when they arise. Don’t post messages or comment on your child’s accounts, just be a silent supporter. 

Media Literacy Council, Singapore