Why Your Child Doesn't Want to Tell You They Are Being Bullied

Mental Health
February 3, 2021
4 min read

The growth of online connection and communication has brought about the newest outlet for bullying. Bullying is no longer as obvious as shoving someone’s head in the toilet or shouting aggressive threats in the hallways. It is more than likely that your child has been involved in bullying in some way. Thirty percent of youth admit to being a bully, more than 33% have been a victim and 70% have been a bystander. As a result, about 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying and with the progression of social media and technology, home is no longer a safe space away from the abuse.

Cyberbullying can happen in blatantly aggressive ways as well as passive-aggressive ways. Oftentimes, it's the passive bullying that is difficult to identify and therefore hard to prevent. It is drastically affecting how safe children feel at all times and is therefore affecting their mental health and overall well-being.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is when someone is harassed, threatened, embarrassed or targeted by another person through technology. Anything posted or sent with the purpose of hurting someone else is also considered cyberbullying. This type of bullying has become very prevalent due to the rapid growth of social media usage, especially among the younger generation. Half of young kids and teens have been victims of cyberbullying and over half of them don’t even tell their parents it has occurred.

Like most bullying cases, these victims are more likely to have low self-esteem and experience suicidal thoughts. Since it is all done online, these cases are often hard to prove in order to nail down who the oppressor or oppressors are. Being able to hide behind a screen gives bullies a heightened sense of courage to tear others down, which has increased the likelihood of children becoming victims of it.

How can I identify passive-aggressive cyberbullying?

Since cyberbullying is still a relatively new phenomenon, parents may feel like they don’t know exactly how it is done or what to look out for. As scary as it sounds, kids are constantly finding new ways to go about bullying one another. There can be blatantly aggressive cyberbullying like sending someone a text message telling them to k*** themselves or commenting hateful things like “delete this” or “you’re ugly” on someone’s social media post. However, kids know that parents and faculty are becoming more aware and involved in taking action against cyberbullying. As a result, kids have started taking a less obvious approach by becoming passive-aggressive bullies.

Passive-aggressive cyberbullying can be difficult to pinpoint, even when you are the victim. The warning signs aren’t bruises on your arm or immediate talk of suicide, but the lasting effect can be extremely influential on one’s mental health. An example of passive-aggressive cyberbullying could be a group of girls intentionally posting about a sleepover so that the one girl they left out will see and feel excluded. It could even be as discreet as a photo being posted of your child knowing they aren’t comfortable with it being put on social media. Intentional or not, these passive acts can make your child feel sad, angry, lonely or hurt and is therefore considered bullying.

I would know if my child was being bullied!

Unfortunately, it’s very possible that you don’t know. There are a few different reasons children avoid telling their parents when they are bullied or when they are the bully themselves. In some instances, victims may not even realize that what is happening to them is considered bullying, especially when it is done passively. They may be telling themselves that their feelings are invalid because the person didn’t explicitly say anything hurtful or physically attack them.

If they do recognize it as bullying, they may just choose to handle the situation themself. This could be because they feel like parent involvement would escalate the situation and increase the likelihood of them being bullied in the future. Another reason could be the fear of losing online privileges. If they tell their parents that cyberbullying is happening on their social media, what if their parents decide to take it away from them? Whatever their reason may be, having open conversations about bullying could decrease the chances that they would keep it from you. Assure them that it is never their fault and you are there to protect and support them in any way that you can. If you feel like your child is being cyberbullied and not wanting to tell you, look out for warning signs so that you can intervene before it’s too late.

It is possible your child is being cyberbullied if they:

  • are using digital devices less, without explanation
  • only use digital devices in private or try to hide what they are doing
  • appear tense when receiving a notification
  • allude to bullying by saying things like “just a lot is going on at school”, “I have no friends” or “there’s drama at school”
  • avoid going to school or other social activities
  • become withdrawn

Protecting and Supporting Your Child

As your child learns to navigate social media and is initially becoming exposed to cyberbullying, you can protect and support them by monitoring their online activity. Cyber Dive’s philosophy revolves around bringing attention to both the positive and negative experiences your child is having online. When it comes to cyberbullying, our tools will identify potentially concerning words or phrases that are found in private messages, comments, captions or searches. You are also able to see everything your child posts as well as posts they are tagged in. By remaining educated on how children passively cyberbully one another, you can better detect these red flags to protect your child and their mental health.

Most importantly, encourage your child to spread kindness, even when others aren’t. Never tiptoe around the presence of cyberbullying because it is very likely that your child has experienced it either first hand or as a bystander. It is important to have consistent, open conversations with your child about physical, verbal and cyberbullying so that they feel comfortable coming to you whenever they feel unsafe. Being able to identify bullying will benefit your child’s well-being and hopefully, they can help others who are becoming victims of it.

For additional support and practical next steps, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness hotline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). If you are ready to schedule your child to talk with a mental health professional, visit Talkspace, an online platform that connects patients with licensed therapists.

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