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How to Deal With Cyberbullies at a New School

Moving to a new school is an opportunity for your child to discover a new place, make friends, and reinvent herself. But for some kids, being the new kid at school isn’t any fun. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, new students are at an increased risk of being bullied, and with peer harassment increasingly occurring online, bullied kids are slipping through the cracks.

Bullying can happen to — and by — anyone. Being bullied isn’t a reflection of a child’s sociability or behavior, just like becoming a bully isn’t limited to kids from a rough background. Bullying arises where there’s a power imbalance, and when your child is the new kid at school, it’s not hard to be seen as an easy target.

For those reasons, parents should monitor for signs of trouble after relocating to a new school district. Since cyberbullying happens outside the domain of school teachers and administrators, troubling social dynamics are often missed at school. And kids themselves are unlikely to speak up about issues in their social life — only 36 percent of students report being bullied, according to one study. However, there are certain changes in behavior and school performance that can point to a problem. Parents should look out for children who display these bullying warning signs:

● Suddenly changing their amount of internet use.

● Deleting accounts or quitting specific websites.

● Being secretive about online activities.

● Appearing tense or upset when receiving notifications.

● Withdrawing from family.

● Avoiding or losing interest in school.

● Becoming unusually moody or depressed.

If you think your child is being cyberbullied, have a conversation about what’s happening at school and online. Most kids will be hesitant to admit they’re being bullied, but an indirect approach can ease them into the conversation. Try questions like these:

● What websites and apps do you and your friends use? What do you use them for?

● Who do you sit with at lunch and on the bus?

● What do your new friends do for fun?

Questions like these can reveal if your child is experiencing social isolation at her new school. If she’s eating lunch alone or is uncomfortable talking about what happens online, it may be time to dig deeper. Ask if anyone has been unkind to her or made her uncomfortable at school or online. Consider making social media accounts so you can monitor certain online activity.

When a child is being bullied online, resist the urge to brush off the attacks as “just words.” The reality is, cyberbullying can be just as harmful, if not more harmful than bullying at school. With the enormous role that smartphones and computers play in the lives of kids today, what happens online follows a bullied child everywhere. That means that even your home becomes a place where your child feels unsafe.

It’s up to parents to help their kids feel safe at home. When it comes to cyberbullying, that means taking children seriously when they talks about their experiences. Parents should also restrict access to harmful online behavior by limiting screen time and creating opportunities for fun outside of apps and social media. If your children are using social media, try to keep their experiences positive. Try to make your home a stress-free place where your kids can forget about what’s happening online. In addition to providing quiet, private spaces, make sure your children eat well and get plenty of sleep so they’re healthy and resilient to stress.

There are also steps you can take to shut down cyberbullying. However, as a parent, you ultimately have limited control over your child’s online life. The most important thing is to make sure your child feels safe, loved, and welcome, and understands that being a victim of bullying is never her fault.

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