Cyber-bullying seems to be more of a problem by the month. Few kids are immune. I liked Hilary Smith’s thoughts on the subject in this guest blog.
10 Ways How Cyber-bullying Affects Youth Spirituality
Bullying takes a toll on victims both emotionally and, perhaps, spiritually. Unfortunately, as technology has advanced, it has expanded the tools available for perpetrators to use against their victims. Cyberbullying is one of the most common forms of bullying, but it takes many forms including online harassment, sexual exploitation and dissemination of inappropriate pictures, rumors and even threats. What makes cyberbullying so dangerous is the ability for the perpetrator to remain veiled behind the anonymous cloak of the internet.
Every teen or child handles the effects of bullying differently. Some may openly admit the abuse to parents, others may hide the damage worried that they may get in trouble or that they can deal with it solo. However, parents absolutely need to be hypervigilant and aware of their child’s online activity and keep the lines of communication open at all times.
Parents are a child’s best resource and should be the loudest advocates when their child becomes the victim of bullying. While parents should lean on their faith for support, they also should understand that their child’s faith or spirituality may be challenged during these times. Here are 10 ways for parents to help their hurt child when bullying is suspected.
1. Be the light.
If parents notice that their child is acting differently—more withdrawn, worried, etc.—it’s time for a talk. Don’t be confrontational, though. Talk openly and honestly with kids. Never judge.
2. Request a meeting with the school.
If a child is being cyberbullied by a peer, then request a meeting with the school. Don’t get angry, don’t become confrontational. But you do need to know what the school district’s bullying policy entails. You may want to print out copies of any threatening or abusive communications that your son or daughter received.
3. Involving the police.
Some forms of bullying cross the line and are actually criminal acts. Each state has different laws about bullying, online harassment, etc. And, yes, in some bullying cases the police absolutely should be contacted.
4. Use prayer for positive.
Pray for strength, and pray with positive intentions. Don’t use prayer to shame or blame your child. Prayer also should not take the place of a licensed therapist or counselor, which some bullying victims need to fully heal.
5. Youth groups may help strengthen friendships and faith.
Some churches offer youth groups or other opportunities for teens to meet other peers. If your child is struggling with friendships, this may be an opportunity for them to find peers with the same values and also build a network of trusted friends.
6. Help cannot wait.
Parents know their child better than anyone. If you notice changes with your child that indicate depression or see signs of self-harm, then get help immediately.
7. Embrace spiritual meditation.
One study has shown that meditation may lower the risk of a child being bullied…or becoming the bully. There are many forms of meditation, and the practice is easy to learn. Meditation shouldn’t replace a licensed therapist, but it can be used as a complementary resource.
8. Audit social media.
Deleting all social media accounts isn’t very practical for most teens. But you can limit friends and the apps that you child uses. Parents should always investigate social media platform before allowing their child to sign on to the service. Yes, this means reading the Terms of Service, as well.
9. The abuse may cause a child to question faith.
Why do bad things happen? Everyone asks this question, and for a teen who was bullied, they may find that they question their faith. If your child is questioning why, just listen to them. We are all given free will, and some use this for evil and not good. Your pastor also may offer guidance to help a child who’s questioning their faith.
10. Christianity doesn’t insulate kids from bullies.
Never assume that having faith, or even attending a religious-based school keeps kids safe from a bully. Yes, bullies are at all schools. Make sure that your school has policies in place to deal with any bullying behaviors.
Any child can be a victim of bullying. However, when a parent suspects that their child is being bullied, they need to step in immediately. Contact the school and request a meeting, and, if the issue demands it, then the police also must be notified. Always support children with love and non-judgment. Use faith as a tool to guide them and help them heal.