Cyberbullying is serious, and scary. Teens can be harassed anytime, anywhere and by anyone.
The incessant taunting can drive students to take drastic measures. One Oregon teen attempted suicide after classmates harassed him online, and police are investigating whether cyberbullying was a factor in a recent suicide by a 12-year-old girl in New York, according to reports.
More than one in 10 teens feared for their safety or were afraid to go to school because of social media activity, according to a report by McAfee. The online security company interviewed close to 1,180 youth ages 10 to 23 for the June 2013 report.
Almost 15 percent of those surveyed reported being the target of cyberbullying, but only 6 percent of parents believed their teen had been a target, the report notes.
[Learn how parents teach teens to be bullies.]
While digital harassment doesn't leave physical signs such as bruises and black eyes, there are emotional and behavioral red flags that can tell parents if their high school student is a victim of online bullying.
If your high school student normally spends all night on Facebook and suddenly has no interest in the site, that is a warning sign, says Katie Johnson with Awareity, an organization that works with schools to implement bullying prevention plans.
The same goes for texts, instant messaging and emails, she says.
"If your child suddenly stops using the computer or appears nervous when they receive a text message, Facebook notification or email, there may be something going on," Johnson says.
Parents should also pay attention to their teen's mood when they do get a message.
Teens who are visibly upset after using the computer or are nervous when a text or instant message appears may be the target of online harassment, says Mary Jo Rapini, a psychotherapist who previously worked as a counselor at the Houston Child Guidance Center.
[Parents: Learn how to help your bullied teen.]
Other telltale signs of cyberbullying often resemble the same signs as physical bullying or depression and can include a loss of appetite, anger, anxiety, declining grades and withdrawing from friends, experts say.
Parents may be tempted to chalk these changes up to typical teen behavior, but they should delve deeper to make sure their child is not dealing with a bigger issue.
"Moodiness and mood swings are just part of being a teen," says Walter Meyer, an antibullying expert whose novel, "Rounding Third," deals with the topic. "But if a child really changes – becomes withdrawn, stops speaking to friends, etc. – the parents should ask what is going on and not be satisfied with 'nothing' as an answer."
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