Cyberbullying is a serious problem that affects youth of every age, race, and socioeconomic status. In fact, over half of all adolescents and teenagers report being bullied online. As a parent, you might feel helpless when your child is harassed online, but there’s actually a lot you can do. Here are seven actions you can take when your child is the victim of cyberbullying.
One of the reasons that cyberbullying is so powerful is because the hurtful words don’t go away. Instead, they stay online, poised to tank your child’s self-esteem anytime she turns on the computer. Rather than having her screenshot and save images of the abuse herself, handle this difficult process for your child. Screenshot and save the offending content to your own computer before deleting it online.
No child wants to admit being alienated and teased by her peers. That’s why over half of all youths don’t confide in their parents when they’re on the receiving end of cyberbullying. If your child is hesitant to report bullying, let her save face while you discreetly address the issue with teachers, coaches, and school administrators. You can also guide her through reporting abusive behavior to the websites where it’s happening.
Your child might not realize just how public her online activity is. And unfortunately, some bullies will use the content she posts as fodder for harassment. This is especially true when cyberbullies pose as the victim online to spread embarrassing pictures and rumors. Walk your child through the process of changing privacy settings to make her social media profiles as private as possible. That way, she can control exactly who sees her posts and pictures.
When bullying on social media is disrupting your child’s everyday life, it’s time to take a break altogether. With her cooperation, plan a social media vacation for your bullied kid and ask the whole family to join in solidarity. Set a time that you’ll stay away from social media sites; maybe it’s three days, or maybe it’s three weeks. Whatever timeframe you choose, make sure it’s attainable and that it feels like a goal, not a punishment. Facebook and Twitter both let users temporarily deactivate their accounts so they can come back whenever they’re ready. If the urge to check notifications is too strong, try an app like SelfControl that lets you block specific websites for a set period of time.
The best way to curb social media cravings is to fill your child’s time with better things to do. Depending on your child’s interests, that could mean picking up a few of her favorite books, hosting friends at home, or joining a new after-school activity. Family activities not only offer something to do, but strengthen your bond as well. Try cooking a new recipe together, tackling a woodworking project, or starting a tradition of evening bike rides to connect with your child offline.
“Unless and until our society recognizes cyberbullying for what it is, the suffering of thousands of silent victims will continue.” – Anna Maria Chavez
On top of fun stuff to do, your child also needs a safe place she can retreat to when life gets stressful. Help turn your kid’s room into an internet-free sanctuary. Redecorate in her favorite colors, eliminate clutter, and infuse the space with relaxing scents to create a place where she can relax and recharge.
Your child needs to know that you’re there for her, no matter what. Make clear that cyberbullying is always unacceptable, and that while things might be hard now, they do get better. Emphasize the good qualities you see in your child, like intelligence, compassion, and integrity, and ask her to list what she likes about herself. Use role playing to come up with scripts your child can use if she’s experiencing bullying, and ask what you can do to help her feel safe.
Start a conversation about cyberbullying and every kind of bullying so kids know what to do, and importantly, they know they have support. Our Coloring and Poster Contests are a perfect activity to start these important conversations: unitedagainstbullying.net/contests
Don’t miss out on updates on contests, news, doses of kindness, resources, and more. Subscribe to the United Against Bullying bi-monthly e-newsletter, The Ripple Effect
Guest post by Laura Pearson.
Thank you for photos from Jay Wennington, Nathan Anderson, and freestocks.org on Unsplash.