Complicated Conversations: Talking with other parents about cyberbullying

Complicated Conversations: Talking with other parents about cyberbullying

What would you say to your friend if you discovered her daughter was starting trouble online?

Anna and Kathy have known each other for years, and their daughters have grown up together. But as the girls become teenagers and begin to grow apart, Kathy is distressed to learn that her daughter is being hurt and excluded by online posts from Anna’s daughter and her friends. Should Kathy approach Anna about the online misconduct? How can she avoid accusations and show she wants to work together with Anna to improve the situation? Watch these two parents tread cautiously into the realm of online conflict and possible cyberbullying.

In this scenario, you will learn about:

  • Telling the difference between cyberbullying and youth conflict
  • Exclusion as a form of bullying
  • Talking with other parents about difficult situations involving online interactions

In this scenario, Kathy has to determine if she thinks her daughter is a victim of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs through electronic technology. It can take place through text messages, emails, or posts on social media sites. Some examples include: posting mean comments or embarrassing photos, making threats, or excluding someone from online groups or other communications.

Many parents are concerned about their children’s behavior online, but not every negative online experience is cyberbullying. Young people can be unkind to each other during adolescence as they practice their social skills. Most experts agree that to be considered cyberbullying, online interactions must include the same characteristics that define face-to-face bullying: intention to harm, repeated aggression, and a real or perceived imbalance of power. Any child or teen can be a victim of cyberbullying, but girls are particularly vulnerable.

Is your child being cyberbullied?

Young people who are victims of cyberbullying show many of the same warning signs as victims of traditional bullying, such as acting withdrawn or depressed, showing reluctance to go to school, and falling behind in schoolwork. In cyberbullying situations, there might be a change in your child’s usual pattern of online communication, for instance avoiding it completely or becoming obsessed with checking messages and accounts. You might also notice that a child seems tense or nervous when checking an account or getting a text message.

Is your child cyberbullying someone else?

No parent wants to believe that his or her child is capable of cyberbullying, but you should be concerned if your child uses digital devices only in secrecy, and switches screens when you approach. If a youth is obsessed with being online at all hours, laughs excessively when using the computer, or tries to hide from you a second account on a social media site, it is important to step in and find out more. Like face-to-face bullies, cyberbullies may also show an unusual degree of concern about their popularity and status at school or in a group.

What to do if your child is a victim of cyberbullying

Here are some things you can do as a parent to minimize the impact of the cyberbullying and take steps towards resolution:

  • Support your child emotionally.
  • Increase your monitoring of your child's online behavior.
  • Get help from others. Consider talking to the parents of other children who are involved, as you might be able to work towards a solution together. If the bullying involves threats and your child feels unsafe, or if the bullying involves any other sort of criminal activity, consider going to the police.