Bullying is no longer limited to children pushing and shoving on the playground where they can easily be caught and disciplined. It happens behind screens and on social media platforms, many of which parents don’t even know exist.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. In the second part of this blog series, we take a look at some of the warning signs parents can look for if they suspect their child might be bullying others.
A major warning sign is an obsession with devices. We live in a digital world, so a child’s connection to their phone or game console is to be expected, however when it turns into an obsession it could be a sign that your child is spending their time bullying others through technology. Your child may not outwardly be displaying signs of aggression or bullying others in front of you, but rather instead hiding behind a screen. Parents can prevent bullying by carefully monitoring screen time and explain that cyber bullying is harmful and unacceptable behavior.
In 2015, Pennsylvania passed HB 229, which made it a crime to bully any child in the state using electronic means. This bill states that an offender of any age, who intimidates, harasses, or threatens the well-being or mental state of a juvenile could be charged with a fine and possibly jail time depending upon the severity of the act. Comments on a child’s physical traits, sexuality, and mental or physical health are all punishable. Educators from all backgrounds – cyber, charter, parochial, and traditional schools – celebrated the passage, and took it as a sign that the new epidemic of cyber bullying could be slowed.
Roughly 80% of teenagers think that bullying is easier to get away with online than in person. If you suspect your child may be bullying others, lay out expectations for responsible online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate actions. If your child is hiding behind a screen, keep all devices in a central area – not tucked away or hidden where they could be using technology in a negative way. Every family may be different, so find what works best for your child. PA Virtual always encourages parents and Learning Coaches to bring concerns about student behavior to the Guidance Department.