Trying to eradicate bullying altogether often feels like a desperate attempt to bail water out of a sinking ship — especially with the rise of cyberbullying on social media. As a parent, you do your best to keep your child safe and to prevent them from bullying others. Unfortunately, there are several sneaky methods of cyberbullying that you might not notice unless you know to look for them.
Let’s face it: even the most dedicated parent doesn’t know every friend in their child’s circle, nor can they know what is likely to be sensitive to particular individuals. If your child is suddenly showing off in an uncharacteristic way or making posts that exclude specific individuals, it could be a sign that they may be engaging in cyberbullying behavior. This might include:
- Bragging online about specific events that one friend was not invited to attend
- Posting about accomplishments that are excessively arrogant in nature or point out your child’s capabilities in a way that is insulting to others
- Social media updates that suggest that those who haven’t done or achieved certain things are somehow lesser than your child
When engaging in gaming harassment, one player deliberately follows another around and sabotages their game. They might:
- Get in the way of their accomplishments
- Steal their “loot”
- Prevent them from reaching goals
While it’s occurring in a game world, this type of behavior is still considered bullying. It can be extremely frustrating to the player being bullied–and it’s often tied to negative behaviors outside the game world, too.
Sure, your child hasn’t called out their target by name. That doesn’t mean, however, that everyone doesn’t know exactly who they’re talking about and what they’re saying. Both Facebook and Twitter are filled with posts that insult a specific individual in such a way that anyone who knows them will recognize them, but which don’t name them. This is known as sub-booking or sub-tweeting, and it’s becoming increasingly common–and hasn’t stopped being hurtful.
No, your child doesn’t have to “friend” or “follow” every person they know in real life. A deliberate decision to avoid friending or following a specific individual, however, may be more than personal preference. It may be a type of silent bullying. This is also true of instances in which your child refuses to like, comment on, or share a specific friend’s posts or pictures.
Is This Really Bullying?
While these behaviors aren’t necessarily nice, you may find yourself wondering if, in some cases, they’re actually bullying. Your child has the right to decide not to connect online with certain individuals, and they don’t have to like or comment on every post their friends make, right? However, there’s a difference between exercising the right of free choice and crossing the line into bullying. Behavior is bullying if it includes:
- Deliberate decisions that your child knows will hurt or anger their target.
- Hurtful content that is specifically designed to create a negative emotional reaction.
- Exclusive behavior that specifically shuts out a particular member of a group, especially suddenly.
What Can You Do About Cyberbullying?
If you worry that your child is being bullied online or that they’re engaging in sneaky bullying tactics, there are several things that you as the parent can do.
- Monitor, monitor, monitor. The more attention you pay to your child’s social media accounts, the more likely you are to notice when something strange is going on or patterns change.
- Have an ongoing and honest conversation about how certain online behaviors make your child feel and how they make others feel.
- Limit social media time and time with electronics. The less time your child has to spend online, the less likely they are to engage in bullying behaviors.
- Pay attention. If you notice behavior that is out of character, take the time to ask why. Dig deeper if you need to.
While it might be nearly impossible to stop online bullying completely, knowing what sneaky tactics are out there can help you monitor your children and teens more effectively.