Cyberbullying hits home: When your child is the target

Cyberbullying hits home: When your child is the target

What should you do if you think your child is being cyberbullied?

After observing a drastic change in her daughter Lisa’s mood, Kathy checks Lisa’s online accounts and discovers some troubling posts aimed at her daughter. How can Kathy approach her daughter and find out more about the situation? What questions can Kathy ask Lisa to determine if she is being cyberbullied, and how can she support Lisa?  See how Kathy helps Lisa learn what she can do to empower herself and take steps to end the online bullying.

In this scenario, you will learn about:

  • Identifying cyberbullying behavior
  • Communicating with your child about cyberbullying
  • Steps you and your child can take if your child is being cyberbullied

In this scenario, Lisa was a victim of “cyberbullying,” or bullying that occurs through electronic technology. Cyberbullying can take place through text messages, emails, or posts of messages, photos, or videos on social media sites. Some examples include: posting mean comments or embarrassing photos, making threats, or excluding someone from online groups or other communications.

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who are victims of cyberbullying show many of the same warning signs as victims of traditional bullying, such as acting withdrawn or depressed, showing reluctance to go to school, and falling behind in schoolwork.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.

Cyberbullying is associated with many of the same negative effects as school bullying, including poor self-esteem, substance use, lowered school attendance and grades, and mental health problems. Yet unlike face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying can be perpetrated anonymously — and can occur wherever and whenever young people have access to the internet. Hurtful messages and images can be spread to hundreds of people within seconds, and are nearly impossible to erase permanently.

Just as Kathy chose to talk to her daughter Lisa about her experience, many parents engage in difficult conversations about cyberbullying. If you have reason to believe your child is a victim, bully, or bystander, you might need to ask him or her about it.  Listen to your child’s side of the story. What you have seen online may not represent the entire picture of what happened and how your child is feeling. Remind your child that you are there for them, no matter what, whether your child is involved as a victim, bully, bystander or some combination of these roles.

Here are some tips you can give your child to lessen his/her exposure and remove power from the bully:

  • Do not respond to any of the bully’s messages, posts, or emails.
  • Block the bully using privacy settings.
  • Use online mechanisms to report the bully.
  • Keep evidence of all communications.

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.