It would be a huge mistake to think that having our kids home socialising under the roof given the COVID-19, is a definite advantage for them.
Yes, social distancing certainly limits their contact with their peers to social media such as TikTok, WhatsApp, Twitter, FaceTime and Zoom.
But, without denying the good that comes from online interaction, our kids are also prone to a more frightening risk – cyberbullying.
L1ght, an algorithm-driven startup monitoring online harms, reported a 70% increase in cyberbullying in only a couple of months.
Your kids might give you excuses like, “We’re just playing games!”
What your kids do not know is that there was a 40% increase in toxicity on online gaming platforms, as L1ght found.
Why did this happen – a cyberworld putting our vulnerable kids at unnecessary risk?
1. Increase of screen time
Due to COVID-19, our kids are going online more than ever.
Beyond the previous purposes of entertainment and socialising, formal education also found its way to the online platforms.
With schools closed, teachers start using platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom, Moodle and even YouTube to continue their duty of educating our kids.
In other words, our kids spent more time behind the screen compared to before.
Increase in screen time leads to a higher chance of cyberbullying to occur.
2. Increase of stress and pressure
COVID-19 pushes everyone to the edge.
And this is not only about you, the parents. Do you realise that our kids are also affected, mentally?
Hostility towards others tends to increase as a way of expressing or manifesting our frustration, our kids included.
Our kids, then, could turn out to be the very cyberbully behind the screen while being an angel in front of you.
As proof, L1ght also discovered a 900% increase in hate speech globally directed towards China on Twitter.
What are our kids stressed about for heaven sake?
3. Boredom and desperation for attention
Kids sometimes engage in cyberbullying due to boredom, loneliness and desperation for attention.
It is more so when parents have to put an extra effort into earning for the family as COVID-19 crashes the shrewd capitalist economic system.
To them, cyberbullying feeds their crave for attention – even if it is a negative one.
On the other side of the coin, most cyberbullying victims are hampered from going straight to their parents for help.
Either they are afraid of being blamed, or they are concerned that their access to their devices would be restricted, causing them to lose contact with their peers.
Or worse, they might think that you will not care after all. Will you not?
So, what parents like you can do?
Firstly, you can establish a general guideline.
There should be a screen time limitation, not only for your kids but also for you as the parents.
Creatively, you can also achieve this purpose by having more time for fun family activities.
The trick is not necessarily by introducing restricting rules – kids hate those.
It is you who will have to allocate more time with them, not them coming to beg for your time.
Secondly, parents should be able to have an honest and direct conversation with their kids.
Our kids should be able to express their feelings and thoughts freely.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, they might accumulate stress, frustration and anxiety deep inside that they need to share with someone dear.
Worse, they might have already been a victim of cyberbullying.
In that case, you can convince them that they are loved, that they can still be in touch with their friends.
Find ways to address their issues together with them. You have to avoid pointing your finger at them for being ‘immature’.
Finally, you can also work closely with the teachers.
You may need to let the teachers know about your situation at home. Your insight is useful for them to engage positively and constructively with your kids.
Otherwise, the teachers will have to rely on their assumptions. With interaction being limited to faces on the screen, their responses might not be as effective as in a normal school environment.
The firewall is you.
Of all the measures, the mightiest firewall against cyberbullying is you, the parents.
It lies in how the parents raise their kids right:
- engaging people with the best behaviour
- practising honourable values, and
- having trust with the parents.
If all parents like you manage to perform your responsibility well, our kids will not need to crawl into the internet in uncertainty, anxiety and fear.
As the saying goes, kids are like a white, plain piece of canvas.
And you, the parents are the ones who are painting the background of the canvas and teaching your kids how to shape, shade and produce a final beautiful picture of themselves.