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10 crucial cyberbullying signs: Is your teen victim or aggressor?

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How to talk to your teen about cyberbullying

My name is Cara. I’m Trend Micro’s teen technology expert. I give parents an inside look into the technology and social media that their teens use. And I share tips on how mums and dads can best address topics with their children without causing a scene.

I was 14-years-old when cyberbullying first came to my school. Some girls were harassing one of my female classmates on Facebook. They were constantly telling her how fat and hideous she looked.

For three months she didn’t say anything, until one day she finally told her parents. They took steps to end the harassment, but the damage had been done, and she ended up moving away the following year.


As a parent, you may be wondering, “How do I know if my child is being cyberbullied,” or “Is my child a cyberbully”? Below, I’ve listed 10 crucial cyberbullying signs to look for when determining whether she’s a victim or aggressor and some advice on how to talk to your teen about it.


5 signs that your teen could be the cyberbully

  • Switches or closes screens when you pass by
  • Uses a computer or mobile device all hours of the day
  • Surfs the web in private browsing mode (Not sure if this is happening? Here’s one way to find out.)
  • Creates secret social network accounts or uses an account that is not his or her own (This one is harder to confirm, as there really isn’t a tool to help with this. Your ability to find secret social networks accounts will rest largely on whether you have an agreement with your teen to search her iPod, handset or computer on a regular basis.)
  • Refuses to discuss what he or she is doing when online


5 signs that your teen may be getting cyberbullied

  • Stops going online
  • Acts nervous or jumpy when receiving a text message or social media notification
  • Hides all phone and online activity
  • Avoids social interactions
  • Undergoes abrupt behaviour changes


How to talk to your teen about cyberbullying

  • Start a discussion.

    Once you recognize the cyberbullying signs it’s time to go on a fact-finding mission, but don’t grill your teen or bomb her with accusations. We tend to withhold details when we feel like we’re being interrogated.

    The best way to start the conversation is as simple as asking, “So, what’s going on? I see that xyz is happening, and I want to hear from you first.”

  • Use a calm tone.

    Try to remain cool; it will help your child open up. Teens feel more comfortable sharing embarrassing situations with their parents when they’re confronted in a non-judgmental way. Whether your child is the cyberbully or is the one being cyberbullied, calmly confront him or her with the evidence.

  • Don’t make assumptions.

    Be open to what your teen has to say and try not to jump to conclusions. If possible, listen to the whole story without interrupting. When we don’t feel listened to, we get defensive.

    Of course your teen could deny being involved in the cyberbullying, but at this point, it’s important to hear his side of the story. You’ll get more information when you talk the other people involved in the incident.

  • Help your teen make connections.

    Okay, I admit it. At times, we teens make snap decisions without fully thinking about the consequences. Blame it on peer pressure, an undeveloped prefrontal cortex or just a general lapse in judgment.

    Teens make mistakes. We’ll text questionable pics to friends. We’ll go online to have a laugh at someone else’s expense. Most of the time, though, we know better.

    But when we make bad decisions, like behaving as cyberbullies, we need our parents’ guidance in understanding our responsibilities in the incidents and how our choices will colour our futures.

    And when we keep quiet about embarrassing or painful experiences, we need our parents’ support in understanding that shame and silence only lead to more pain.

    If it turns out your teen is involved in cyberbullying, whether as a victim or aggressor, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just gives you an opportunity to create solutions and model positive behaviour that will help your child make good choices in the future.

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