Cyberbullying: Knowing the Signs Can Save Your Child

Over the last few months we’ve read about horrific tragedies – bullycides — that appear prompted by relentless peer bullying. Phoebe Prince, a fifteen-year old Massachusetts high school student, committed suicide. South Hadley High Principal Daniel Smith called Prince “smart, charming, and as is the case with many teenagers, complicated …. We will never know the specific reasons why she chose to take her life,” reported. But we do have one clue: friends and school officials confirmed that she had been taunted by peers via text messages, Facebook and other social networking sites since moving from Ireland last year.

Horrific. Sad. Heart-wrenching. There really are no Cyberbullying - know the signs - smalleradequate descriptors. We’ve read of too many of our children who have ended their young lives due to vicious online (yes, and offline) peer cruelty. I carry with me a photo of a young Canadian boy — a precious sixth grader — who ended his life because of bullying. His father gave me his son’s photo and asked me to never stop doing what I do.

“Keep talking about empathy,” the dad said. “If someone had heard your message I know my son would be alive today. It would have saved him.”

I promised that dad I would keep going. But it seems we have an even tougher battle these days. Kids are crueler and at younger ages. Let’s get our heads out of the sand and realize we’re not doing a good enough job in nurturing our children’s empathy and creating cultures of compassion.

And so let’s get educated, folks. It’s our first big step to turn this around. These are serious lessons — they might save a child. Please read carefully. Watch your child and how he responds. Not one more death!

What is Cyberbullying?

So we’re clear, cyberbullying is an electronic form of communication that uses cyber-technology or digital media to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail or otherwise target another minor. Every adult who interacts with kids–parents, educators, librarians, police, pediatricians, coaches, child care givers–must get educated about this lethal new form bullying so you can find ways to stop this.

One reason for such a dramatic increase in cyber-abuse is that it’s just so much easier to be cruel when you don’t have to do lash out your vicious insinuations face to face! Where we once thought we just had to protect children from adult predators using the Internet, we now need to shield kids from one another.

Cyber-bullying is real. Incidents are happening at an increasing rate. National surveys by online safety expert, Parry Aftab, estimate that 85 percent of 12 and 13-year olds have had experience with cyber bullying; 53 percent say they have been bullied online.

Many experts confirm that the psychological effects on our children can be as devastating, and may be even more so than traditional bullying. If you have any doubt, just look at the precious face of Phoebe Prince! Research proves that when kids are left unsupervised and without behavior expectations traditional bullying thrives. And we may not be doing as good a job as we think.

One survey found that while 93 percent of parents feel they have a good idea of what their kids are doing on the Internet; 41 percent of our kids say they don’t share with us what they do or where they go online.

9 Possible Signs and Symptoms of Cyberbullying To Look for In Your Children

Research also says that chances are that your child will not tell you he is harassed online. As our children get older studies also show the likelihood declines even more. One big reason: our kids say we did not listen or believe them when they did come and tell us. So get educated. Tune into your children closer. Look for these possible signs of cyber bullying though there are others. And if they are not due to cyberbullying they clearly warrant looking into. Something is amiss with your child!

  • Hesitant to be online; nervous when an Instant Message, text message or Email appears
  • Visibly upset after using the computer or cell phone or suddenly avoids it
  • Hides or clears the computer screen or closes cellphone when you enter
  • Spends unusually and longer hours online in a more tense pensive tone
  • Withdraws from friends, falls behind in schoolwork’s or wants to avoid school
  • Suddenly sullen, evasive withdrawn, marked change in personality or behavior
  • Trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, excessively moody or crying, seems depressed
  • Suspicious phone calls, e-mails and packages arrives at your home
  • Possible drop in academic performance

Your goal is to keep a good ongoing dialogue with your child so she will feel comfortable telling you if something bad happens online or elsewhere. You are your child’s best filter both on and off line Build a relationship of trust and then listen carefully to what your kids say about their online experiences. Let your child know you believe her and will not stop until she feels safe. Also be clear that you want to know if your child receives an inappropriate message (that goes for both on and offline).

This tragedy should be a wake-up call that our children need more specific guidance, developmentally appropriate supervision, and clear expectations for the wide, wide web.

Get educated. Get active! Get your community involved. And please watch for those signs.

No child should ever be allowed to send or receive cruelty! EVER!

****************************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions has recently been released and is now available at

About the Author

Michele Borba, Ed.D. is the author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About Me World, and is an internationally renowned educational psychologist and a recognized expert in parenting, bullying, youth violence, and character development and author of 23 books including her new release, THRIVERS: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine. She is a regular NBC contributor who appears regularly on TODAY and has been featured as an expert on Dateline, The View, Dr Phil, NBC Nightly News, Fox & Friends, Dr. Oz, and The Early Show. She lives in Palm Springs, CA with her husband, and is the mother of three grown sons. Dr. Borba is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


2 Responses to “Cyberbullying: Knowing the Signs Can Save Your Child”

  1. A terrifying subject beautifully addressed. I’ll be forwarding this to all the moms I know – thank you.
    .-= Rebecca Wear Robinson´s last blog ..How much do you love your loved ones? Could you save them? =-.

  2. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

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