Parents urged to learn the signs of cyberbullying to protect their children

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Parents need to know the tell-tale signs that their child is being cyberbullied, a psychotherapist has said.

Colman Noctor, a child and adolescent psychotherapist at St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin, said the genie was out of the bottle when it came to cyberbullying.

“It is very hard to avoid it so we have to put interventions in place to help young people deal with it,” said Mr Noctor.

It was up to parents to be vigilant about their child’s online behaviour and there were a number of signs that they should watch out for.

“The child might act very territorial about their mobile phone or flip down the laptop when you come into the room,” he said.

Parents also needed to look out for signs of emotional upset such as sleep and appetite problems.

The child might also lose interest in activities they would normally take part in and opt out of engaging with friends.

Mr Noctor, who addressed the conference on cyberbullying held in Dublin Castle yesterday, said parents were often surprised that their child was being cyberbullied.

“Unfortunately, cyberbullying is a manifestation of bullying behaviour that has being projected into another forum,” he said.

Mr Noctor said parents also needed to show children how to manage technology.

Research also showed that young people who were depressed were more likely to spend more time online.

Colm Human, 18, who described himself as a “cyberspace techie”, told how he helped a friend who was being cyber-bullied.

Colm, who has just finished the equivalent of the Leaving Certificate in Toronto, Canada, has come to Ireland to study film at a Dublin college.

He said his friend was repeatedly sent malicious text and video messages.

“I got very upset as my friend was considering suicide as a way out,” he said.

Colm identified the perpetrator and told him to stop bullying his friend.

He knew it was probably not the best way to deal with the situation but had found from personal experience that teachers were not helpful in dealing with such issues.

“I am not saying go out and fight the bully but make them realise that you can stand up for yourself and cannot be pushed around,” said Colm. “I helped him make a difference.”