Any form of bullying is enough to have a lasting impact on a child’s life. Cyberbullying takes the days of meeting the aggressor in the playground after school to a whole new level. After enduring abuse or neglect from their biological parents, bullying is adding insult to injury for foster kids. As a foster parent, recognizing cyberbullying and helping your foster child confront it will build his confidence and self-esteem.
According to HelpGuide.org, it’s estimated that one-third of the teen population are victims of cyberbullying. By definition, cyberbullying is “the act of bullying someone through electronic means.” Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are breeding grounds for online harassment.
Help Your Foster Child Confront Cyberbullying: Faceless Power
But what makes these young people so bold in their desire to harass their peers?
One theory is that it’s easy to bring harm to others when you can hide behind a computer. When your identity is protected, it can unfortunately open the door to inappropriate behavior. Because they can be anonymous, aggressors might feel invincible and even emotionless as they mistreat their victims.
In 2013, a 12-year-old Florida youth jumped to her death after being taunted by her peers online. Police took the young suspects into custody after they showed no remorse.
In Ohio, a teenager endured teasing from her peers after her ex-boyfriend distributed a nude picture of her via cell phone. After being cyberbullied for months, she committed suicide.
In the age of sexting, you may see images of your child in care that are very disturbing. As unsettling as they may be to you, your foster child will be hurt more because of his past experiences with abuse.
Help Your Foster Child Confront Cyberbullying: Signs of Cyberbullying Attack
It can be difficult to determine if your foster child is a victim of bullying, but there are signs that are cause for concern. For example, he may have anxiety after receiving a text or instant message or be very secretive about his activity online. He might also exhibit anger or sadness after being on the computer or on the phone. When you see these behaviors, you should address the issue. Some youth are committing suicide because of cyberbullying.
The harassment occurs in secret, but the effects of this type of bullying are public and can tear your child in care apart.
Your foster child may not be willing to share what is happening to him. He may fear repercussion from his aggressor or might think nothing can be done to fix what’s going on. He has a history of not being protected.
Now that you know your foster child is a victim of cyberbullying, it’s up to you to reassure him and instill the confidence he needs.
Help Your Foster Child Confront Cyberbullying: Take Action
Inform your child in care’s Family Service Specialist (caseworker) immediately. If you cannot reach his caseworker, leave a message giving detailed information about what’s happening.
It’s also important you have a record of all communications such as emails, text messages, as well as Facebook and Twitter posts.
All threats should be taken seriously, and you may have to reach out to the authorities. If you believe your foster child is in danger, you should contact your local police department. Depending on the severity of the content, cyberbullying can be punishable by law.
You can also notify his teachers so they can be on alert to detect cyberbullying on school grounds and execute their anti-bullying policy.
In the meantime, you may wonder what tips you can give your foster child to help him respond to his cyberbullying peers.
Help Your Foster Child Confront Cyberbullying: What Else Can You Do?
Remaining calm and confident in pressing situations is important for your foster child. It is highly likely he may want to retaliate. The “an eye for an eye” reaction is not the answer. Seeking revenge will only create more problems. Instead, help your foster child disconnect from cyberbullies. This means deleting contacts from social media and blocking telephone numbers. Doing this will help to further minimize cyberbullying attacks on your foster child.
If you suspect your foster child is a cyberbully, remind him that any form of bullying is unacceptable. He should treat people with the same respect he wants. You can also help him by monitoring his time on the phone and computer.
As the most recent trend in harassment for young people, cyberbullying can cause additional psychological damage for your foster child. With your help, he will have the confidence and self-esteem he needs to get through this difficult time.
Salendria Mabrey is a Communication and Development Associate at Foster and Adoptive Family Services.