UAE expert gives tips to help kids open up about cyberbullying
Parents advised to look out for signs of distress or loneliness in their kids
Parents should not confront their children immediately if they suspect the latter are being bullied, an expert has said. Addressing a virtual session called ‘Cyberbullying’ at the 39th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), clinical psychologist Divia Ahuja advised parents to look out for signs of distress or loneliness.
“If you think your child is being bullied (online), don’t confront them instantly. They will withdraw. They will hide their activities and you would have lost your chance to know them.
“If you can, try to identify their moods and behaviours. Explore the causes and take your time instead of rushing. Speak to their social circle and identify their changes and their activities on the digital devices. Has it changed or are they walking away from conversations and hiding in a corner and replying or being upset? ... Talk to their teachers and peers.”
According to a 2019 survey by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), about 15.7 per cent of high school students said they were bullied online.
“Set up social media rules from the beginning. Keeping an eye does not mean spying on them. Do not cross privacy boundaries. Be inquisitive in a more positive manner. Talk to them in a positive way without getting argumentative. If you do find evidence, talk to them and encourage them to talk. Assure them that what is happening to them is not right.”
Cyberbullying can affect a child’s mental health, Ahuja added. “It can debase and degrade you, make you anxious and depressed. It starts bringing you down.”
The expert explained that cyberbullying has unique concerns as it can be persistent. Digital devices are constantly on and this can make it difficult for children to find any respite.
Should you confront a bully?
She advised parents to not engage with a bully.
“This will not go down well with your child. Instead, teach them the skills to handle such people and such situations. Block the person who is cyberbullying. Often, children don’t do that, because they feel (this would mean) they are unable to stand up for themselves. Help them understand that blocking is not running away, but addressing that negativity is not accepted. “Besides, there are many laws that protect people from such things, so documenting or keeping a record of such incidents can prove to be helpful later.”
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