Due to the influx in popularity of online apps like Snapchat and Tik Tok, there are more opportunities for cyberbullying. Like traditional bullying, the evidence of cyberbullying requires intent and repetition. Where one instance of abuse is mean, repetitive abuse is considered bullying. Where an accidental hurt can be rude, intentional attacks are also considered bullying.
Due to neurodiverse children being computer-savvy and having access to a swath of apps on phones and computers they are often the targets of bullying and manipulation from peers who don’t understand them and lack the empathy or awareness to act kindly. They may be perceived as more vulnerable because they rely on the internet to satisfy their social needs that they may not be getting in person-to-person scenarios, leading to over-exposure of personal information and a lack of non-verbal expression that makes communication more difficult. Alternatively, children on the spectrum could show signs of aggression online toward others.
Supporting Your Children After Cyberbullying
This behavior is easier than ever today thanks to the Internet, where children can use fake usernames to bully their classmates. If your neurodiverse children are being cyberbullied, here’s how you and their counselors can help them work through the situation.
Check Their Sensory Processing Level
When your children go through a traumatic event, it’s usually harder for them to handle other triggering situations, especially if they have sensory processing disorder. For example, suppose one of your kids has tactile SPD but has overcome his or her hesitance to hug your family members through occupational therapy. When he or she is being cyberbullied, this rejection of physical affection may resurface.
Assess Their Emotional Development
Sometimes, the trauma from cyberbullying doesn’t manifest itself in your kids’ sensory processing. Instead, it hinders their ability to handle emotional and social situations because they’re afraid of further rejection. Their counselor may use assessments such as the Behavior Intervention Monitoring Assessment System or the Social-Emotional Learning Skills Inventory Screener to check your kids’ progress.
These assessments track skills such as self-consciousness, awareness of others, ability to make decisions, and social responsibility. If your kids are being cyberbullied, they may struggle with these skills. This struggle may happen because they’re turning away from other people as a coping mechanism.
Once your kids’ emotional assessments come in, talk to your counselor about a new plan for helping your children at school. This means creating a safe online environment where someone is monitoring users’ accounts for signs of cyberbullying; your kids’ school can probably recommend an online safe space. It also means helping your kids while they’re at school through buddy systems, high-interest clubs, and team-centered learning environments.
Equip Them With Proper Tools
In many cases, traumatic events like cyberbullying may happen when parents, counselors, and teachers are not present. While kids are increasingly becoming more tech-savvy, their familiarity with apps makes them more vulnerable to attack. Helping children understand the apps they’re using, how to report bullying, how to take a screenshot, and bring the evidence to an adult is the best way to equip them for potential attacks.
The first step would be to get to know the child in question and how much they can handle. From there, roleplaying scenarios will assist them in practicing for the real thing and preparing them for an appropriate response.
Supporting neurodiverse kids after cyberbullying incidents is challenging, but there are many resources to help. WPS publish offers key assessments and intervention materials to support clinicians and professionals when dealing with issues like the ones described above.