In the last couple of years, there has been an increase in children’s time online for school and social activities, especially during this COVID period. As a consequence, cyberbullying has become a growing concern for parents.
15% of students aged 12 to 18 say they have been bullied online or by text, according to The USC Rossier School of Education. Now experts are working on learning more about the relationship between cyberbullying and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Plan International is an NGO that advocates for children’s rights and equality for girls in more than 75 countries. Their most recent report about cyberbullying, titled (In)seguras Online, shows why girls are the primary victims of this issue. This research is based on the testimonies of 14,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 25 from 22 countries. According to Plan International, girls face the experience of bullying from the age of 8, and it is between the ages of 14 and 16 that they experience it most frequently.
Girls, adolescents, and young users of social networks are regularly exposed to this form of violence, including receiving explicit messages, images with sexual content, attacks on their physical appearance, threats of physical and sexual violence, racism, anti-LGTBIQ+ comments, and humiliation. This type of violence occurs on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok, with Facebook being the most used (39%) and TikTok (6%) the least used.
On the other hand, the research also shows that despite a girl’s social status or economic situation, all of them are exposed to suffer from bullying. Regarding the victims’ actions: Although 35% of them claim to have reported their aggressor, most perceive that the harasser creates a new profile and continues to exercise violence on them. Consequently, almost 20% have limited the use of social networks, and 12% have stopped using them directly.
Online harassment is silencing the voices of girls and young women who live in fear while their aggressors have total impunity. More worrying data from the study: One in four girls who have suffered online harassment feel in physical danger; 42% have lost self-esteem or self-confidence. The same percentage feel mental or emotional stress, while 18% have problems in school.
According to StopBullying.gov, here are some signs that children show that could indicate that they are suffering from cyberbullying:
-Loss or breakage of clothing, books, electronic devices, or other belongings.
-General discomfort and frequent stomach aches, headaches, or feeling sick.
-Changes in eating habits, such as binge eating or skipping mealtimes.
-Coming home hungry because they did not eat their lunch at school.
-Frequent nightmares or struggle to fall asleep.
-Low grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or refusal to go to school
-Sudden loss of friends or desire to avoid social situations.
-Low self-esteem and feelings of sorrow.
If you identify any of these symptoms in your child, you should visit their school and try to find out what is going on. After doing so, talking with your kids and giving them support is the most crucial part. Parents must approach them with kindness and assertiveness so they can open up about what worries them. If the teenager refuses to speak out, it would be better to let a professional handle the situation.