Know the Signs of Cyberbullying
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who are victims of cyberbullying show many of the same warning signs as victims of traditional bullying, such as acting withdrawn or depressed, showing reluctance to go to school, and falling behind in schoolwork.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.
How to talk to your child 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. Pick an appropriate time and place when your child has had a chance to step away from electronic devices and calm down. You too should be calm, so your child doesn’t shut down and refuse to talk.
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.
If someone is in danger or being hurt, you may have to share the conversation. Explain to your child what information you may have to share to protect the safety of everyone involved.
What to do if your child is a victim of cyberbullying
Finding out that your child is being targeted can be upsetting for both of you. 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. Bullies are often seeking a reaction from the victim or from bystanders—so don’t give them one.
- Block the bully. Use the settings of social media sites and cell phones to block messages from bullies and prevent them from having access to what you post.
- Use online mechanisms to report the bully. Online harassment violates the conditions of most social media sites. Most websites have easy and anonymous ways to report cyberbullying, which can lead to suspension of the bully’s account.
- Keep evidence of all communications. Print out all messages and images that have been posted, and take screenshots whenever possible.
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. Let children know their safety and emotional well-being are your biggest priorities and that you will be there for them no matter what. Take care to prevent your own emotions from hijacking the conversation, and be truly present with your child.
- Allow your child to continue online communications. Removing your child from the online world may isolate her/him from peers who are supportive. Instead, encourage your child to take actions like blocking or reporting the bully. However, increase your monitoring, and let your child know that you are doing so to protect her/him.
- 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.
How Bystanders Can Intervene in Cyberbullying Situations
Cyberbullying is harder for adults to observe than face-to-face bullying; youth are often the only ones who know about it. Let children know that sharing with you won’t affect their online privileges and that you’ll continue to respect their privacy if they do the right thing. Help them take responsibility as digital citizens by giving them these tips:
- Speak up! Put a stop to unkind behavior online by telling those involved that you don’t appreciate it. Ask that they take down inappropriate posts. Once one person speaks up online, others will often rally together.
- Don’t give the bully an audience. You should never forward, post, or share negative messages. This choice protects both the victim’s and your own digital footprint.
- Support the person being bullied. You can be a friend to the victim, send supportive messages online, and encourage the victim to talk to a trusted adult.
- Report the cyberbullying to the site on which it is occurring.