Dr. Lisa Moreno, Fidelis Care pediatrician says they see an increase in the amount of time that kids are spending online for school and for social activities during this COVID period and cyber bullying has become a growing concern for families. Fidelis Care is working to raise the awareness of this issue and helping to provide families with some helpful support and resources.
Dr. Moreno says what’s scary about the cyber bulling is that it is usually anonymous, it can persist and happen throughout the day as opposed to face-to-face bullying where there is limited time and kids can feel and escape from it. Understanding that dynamic and how overwhelming that can be for a child is really important. One thing she advocates is, if you feel this is going on, have that discussion with your child; open up that line of communication. A lot of times, she says, they internalize this. Dr. Moreno says you don’t want to take away their device right away. She thinks this is impulse; let me take the source away. What happens is the child can think of this as more of a punishment, so you want to let them know it is not their fault. Open it up with that….this is not your fault. This is something that just happens. Let them know you are involved, and you care.
Some of the early signs that you can pick up as a parent are: if you notice they are having behavioral changes, if you notice that their eating habits are different, if you notice they are having difficulty sleeping; if they want to be a little bit more secretive about their device or they want to avoid discussions about what they are doing online that is a little concerning says Dr. Moreno. Also, if there is a sudden lack in their academic performance especially in comparison to their norm. If it is completely out of their norm that’s a big red flag. A child may become more withdrawn, you may notice that they seem more depressed; they tend to lose interest in being around others, and doing activities they may otherwise enjoyed in the past.
When should a parent seek outside help? Dr. Moreno says after you have that discussion, determine if it is appropriate at that time to involve school administration depending on the situation that is occurring, individual for you and your child then do so. If you feel this has escalated and your child may need some counseling with it because it is very overwhelming, do so. If it is more severe and there is any concern for physical harm, don’t be afraid to involve the police and the authorities.