Cyberbullying and Autism
Updated: Jan 14
With the increasing use of the Internet and children using online and remote school platforms there is more opportunity for cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a type of bullying that happens repeatedly or intentionally through any electronic platform. Children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than their neurotypical peers.
So, what are some signs of cyberbullying? How can you spot it? First understand that it is very unlikely your child will tell you they are being bullied. If your child seems anxious or starts to exhibit signs of low self-esteem this could be a sign of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying often will cause increased feelings of depression and anxiety. Monitor your child for withdrawal, changes in behavior, negative self-talk and responding with negative, detrimental comments.
If your child seems upset, sad, angry, depressed or acts unusually after being on a virtual platform, this could be a sign of cyberbullying. Keep an eye on their temperament after they finish with a device. If you see any signs of stress or behavior changes, this could be from cyberbullying. If your child seems to be withdrawn, or does not want to be around friends or with anyone this could be a sign of cyberbullying. Many people withdraw from others when they are feeling anxious or depressed.
Has your child lost interest in their computer or electronic devices? This could be a sign of cyberbullying. If a child suddenly starts expressing a fear of their device, this could be a sign. Most children are very engaged in devices these days so if they normally engage and suddenly stop that should send up a “red flag”.
Does your child seem to be hiding something or being secretive about what they are doing on a device? Do they shut it down when you walk by or try to hide what they are doing? This is a huge sign.
What can you do? If your child is exhibiting any of these signs, start asking questions. Stay calm but try to find out what is bothering them. Only ask one or two questions at a time and be sure to give them time to process the information. They may not be sure what is happening. Learn how to monitor your child’s online activities, especially when they are young. Set up parental controls when possible. Use role playing to play out what happened in the situation and how it could have been handled. Help them understand what happened and what they can do next time. Practice scenarios. Help them understand emotions and how to react in an appropriate way.
Last but certainly not least, make sure the child knows this is not their fault. They did nothing wrong. The other person is the bully. Provide them with positive affirmations to help build their self-esteem.
There is a great comprehensive guide on safe cyber usage at https://www.wizcase.com/blog/internet-safety-guide-for-people-with-autism-spectrum-disorders/#8.
Additional safety resources can be found at: nstlaw.com/child-safety/internet/