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Things Every Parent Should do to Protect Their Kid From Cyberbulling

Updated on December 19, 2016

Things Every Parent Should Know About Cyberbullying

Social media has transformed our world for the better by raising awareness about important issues, helping business owners grow their businesses and improve their lives and helping people re-connect with old friends they had lost contact with and make new connections they never would have made otherwise. Unfortunately, there's negative side to social media, especially when it comes to our children. Cyberbullying is a problem that has been increasing in prevalence in recent years. And it requires serious attention from parents, educators, and traditional media, law enforcement agencies to help children from this threat. In recent years the concept of bullying has been expanding from verbal and physical bullying, to include a more modern understanding of what kids are experiencing through the rise of social media.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is described as when one uses electronic communication (like the Internet and cell phones) to threaten, harass, or intimidate a victim usually again and again.

Cyberbullying includes rude and mean comments, insults, starting rumors or spreading gossip online, direct or indirect threats such as stealing someone's password and logging into someone else's account, making fun of someone in an online chat, impersonating someone online -- including creating a fake online profile, posting personal information or anything without the subject's consent meant to embarrass or hurt him/her through the platform of emails, texts, tweets, posts, photo or video and all other forms of technology.

Hard facts:

  1. One of the things you should know about cyberbullying before you begin to help your child cope with it is that it’s just as dangerous as physical bullying if not more.
  2. Cyberbullying doesn’t require face-to-face contact. A cyberbully can be anyone with access to the internet or a phone. Cyberbullies can reach their victims 24 hours a day.
  3. Photos, cruel comments, taunts and threats travel in an instant, and can be seen, revisited, reposted, linked to and spread rapidly to a large, invisible audience and can occur at any time of day or night whereas regular bullying generally stops when kid goes home. Though, Cyberbullying is far less common than real-world bullying. Things can go viral so quickly because there’s a limitless audience to watch and even join in on the hate and humiliation expression. There are nearly limitless opportunities for kids to be harassed online, from Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Instagram to Xbox Live, Secret, and Snapchat — even Club Penguin and Minecraft have had their share of bullies.
  4. It occurs on the internet, a refuge for your son or daughter, and can cause them to harm themselves or cause long-lasting emotional suffering. Cyberbullying can be deadly; and can make kids feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, sad, angry, helpless, hopeless and suicidal after experiencing cyberbullying. Your child could be receiving hate-filled messages such as, “You should kill yourself.” “Nobody likes you.” "Everybody hates you," "I wish you would die," “You’re ugly.”
  5. Online messages can be more confusing or scarier than in regular bullying because there are no face-to-face cues to help you understand people's intentions. Helping your kids recognize bullying will help them learn to better deal with it.
  6. In some ways, cyberbullying is worse. Cyberbullies sometimes act anonymously, whereas, with traditional bullying, it's often clear who the bully is. Anonymity is a cloak that bullies hide behind to torment their victims. Not only does it encourage the bully to be more brazen, it makes him or her hard to trace.
  7. Your child may feel powerless if he doesn’t know where the bullying is coming from. Let him/her know there are still ways to attempt to stop the behavior, as well as the importance of receiving support for himself so he doesn’t have to deal with it alone.
  8. Even if you have a great relationship with your child, he/she may keep cyberbullying as a secret from you. He/she may be ashamed, fear retribution, or scared that you’ll revoke his/her internet privileges. Smartphones and social media are like oxygen to them.
  9. You may not think your child is experiencing bullying. It’s really hard to tell if your child is being bullied if your child isn’t willing to open up. The key things to look for are sudden shifts in behavior, anxiousness, mood fluctuations, drop in energy level or motivation, changes in sleep or appetite, or sadness, reluctance to use his/her phone or laptop, and reluctance to go to school, and if he/she used to be outgoing and now refuses to leave his room. They’re signs that something is wrong.
  10. If he/she doesn’t want to tell you, he/she may still be willing to open up to a family friend, friendly aunt or uncle, teacher, coach, or other adults. The important thing is to make sure they’re not suffering in silence.
  11. Just like school yard bullies feed off of fear and attention, cyberbullies live for posting humiliating comments. The best way your child can combat cyberbullying is often by ignoring the bully. Once the bully sees that your child is essentially impervious to their unkind posts, they’ll give up the fight.
  12. Your kid may not want you to do anything about it. As a parent you may be tempted to march into the school and demand answers, or confront the parents of the bully yourself. And that might only make matters worse. Some kids would rather handle the problem themselves. If your child decides he/she have the resources to address the problem himself/herself, then you’ve probably done a great job as a parent.
  13. It’s even harder to tell if your child is a bully. Even though you did your best to bring up your kid, keep in mind that your child may be a cyberbully. When teenagers think no one’s looking, they act differently than anyone would expect them to behave. You can suspect if he/she is a bully if he/she suddenly becomes more secretive than usual. Other signs are if he/she hides himself/herself away with her phone or computer, quickly closes his/her tablet or laptop when you walk by, or is maintaining multiple pseudonymous accounts on different social networks, though, these things could also indicate something entirely different. If you suspect that your child may be a cyberbully, discuss with him/her how cruel it is, warn him/her of the effects it has on others, and most importantly get him/her to stop before things get out of hand.

What are some things a parent can do to help prevent cyber bullying?

Cyberbullying has evolved over the past few years due to technological advances, but you can educate yourself about the dangers of cyberbullying so as to stay aware of new cyberbullying methods and help to prevent it from happening to their child. If you're not making a point to stay on top of this threat, you'll lose your credibility and your ability to make a difference in this area of your kid's life because you won't have an idea what the problem is all about. If you find out that your child is being cyberbullied, what can you do?

  • Taking away phones and other devices from the child can be a natural reaction, but remember that it’s important for kids to stay connected at this stage. Find a solution to stay engaged in online activity, review healthy online rules, and continue to be a source of safety and support for your child.
  • Explain what cyberbullying is and how to stand up to it, safely. Let you child understand that bullying is never acceptable.
  • Cyberbullies are often looking for a reaction and signs that their bullying is working. Make sure they understand that it’s important not to reply to any of these messages. Responding just makes the cyberbullying worse and gives the cyberbully exactly what he or she wants.
  • Have your child save screenshots or copies of the cyberbullying to take to law enforcement officials when it involves threats of violence or sexual in nature.
  • If necessary, you can change your child’s email and phone number.
  • If your kid knows who the cyberbully is, you should probably talk it over -- face-to-face -- with the kid's parents.
  • Notify your kid’s school. With the rise of cyberbullying, many schools now have a specific protocol for handling cyberbullying . Sprigeo is currently working with more than 1,000 schools in 27 states.
  • Keep a record of evidence to include dates, times, and descriptions of when cyberbullying has occurred. Have your child forward you the emails, posts, or messages that way you can keep the record, without your child having to hang on to them in the phone or device and be reminded of it unnecessarily. If the bullying is happening indirectly, the school can access records of these things if they have occurred on school issued devices.
  • You can save and print screenshots of emails and text messages to report cyberbullying to the service provider such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Gmail, YouTube , ISP, the cell phone company, cell phone service providers. etc so they can take action against users that are violating the sites terms of service. They take reports seriously and don’t want their sites used as a platform for bullying. In some cases, they may even block that user from their site completely.
  • Block the bully or bullies from your child’s personal devices and accounts if she’s receiving harassing or insulting comments directly. Denying bullies any form of power is a good place to start. Bullying should not be taken lightly.
  • Check your kid’s privacy and security settings for each platform, especially Facebook every time it changes. Explain to them how to change their privacy and think about what people who are not friends could do with their information.
  • Talk with your child about the spectrum of bully behaviors and let her/him know that it’s never acceptable for someone to insult, embarrass, or harass her/him. Let your child know that he/she won’t be punished for sharing this information with you, and that you and others will help her to put a stop to it. Communicate with honesty. Have mini-conversations about what is going on in his/her life both at school and on social media. Learn as much about their daily interactions as you can by being open and communicative with your child.
  • Encourage teens to tell an adult if cyberbullying is occurring. Well over half of young people do not tell their parents. Your child may not always feel comfortably confiding in you about his/her problems. While of course you would prefer that he/she turn to you in their time of need, your number one priority should simply be that he/she open up to someone. Any trusted adult in his/her life will do, whether it is his/her father, a school counselor, or religious leader. It’s important for teens to get heavy issues like this off their chest to ensure mental health and happiness.
  • If your kids don’t want to talk to any adult, he/she can report bullying incidents to his/her school via Sprigeo, a mobile app and website. Students can file reports anonymously if they so desire. Most of the reports come from witnesses to bullying incidents, not victims. When Sprigeo finds evidence of bullying online, it contacts the social network or app where it happened immediately, and the offending text or image is usually removed within the hour Even if his/her school isn’t one of them, Sprigeo will contact the school on your child’s behalf and inform them of the incident. Similar apps that allow kids to report bullying incidents to their schools include STOPit and CyberBully Hotline.
  • You should lead by example. Some parents are just as bad as teenagers when it comes to cyberbullying. You shouldn’t slander or gossip about others on social media, just like you wouldn’t want your child to do.
  • Talk to your child about putting down the device or shutting it off and engaging in something that makes him/her feel good – a favorite hobby, playing with a pet, reading a book, getting outside, chatting with a parent, grandparent, or other family members, and resisting the urge to respond and/or retaliate. Explain to him/her that taking this break will help to diminish the negative feelings he/she is experiencing, as well as give you a chance to figure out how to handle it.
  • Periodically review the contents of his/her phone. When your child knows that you may be checking-in on his or her online history and cell phone behavior, he or she is more likely to be nice to others, and not be the bully. Conversely, if your child is the victim of such behavior, knowing you may find it, rather than having to go through the terrifying process of telling you they are disliked by peers, can be a blessing.
  • You could help to prevent social-media bullying by asking your child to show you his/her profile pages and by learning how to use social media with more proficiency. Go ahead and “friend” or “follow” your child, and try to keep an eye on what they’re doing to ensure they’re safe. Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask questions about what he/she is doing and who he/she is talking to. Have him/her give you all their passwords for “just in case.” Make sure he/she understands you will not be checking in on him/her all the time, but have access to everything they do online. “Follow” or “friend” him/her on social media sites. You can also have a trusted adult (favorite aunt) follow him/her and let you know if he/she notices anything unacceptable. Explain to him/her that once it’s out there, information online will always be out there. Have him/her think about what information or pictures he/she wants friends or even strangers to be able to see.
  • Teach your child to help other children who are being cyberbullied if he/she sees anything. Let he/she understand that that other kids might not know how to deal with the cyberbullying, and teach them to standup for themselves.
  • Manage your child’s stress. Teach your child how to positively manage his or her stress. Let your child know not to blame him or herself; it is not their fault. The cyberbully has the problem, not them. Teach your child that the cyberbully is unhappy and is trying to have control over another person’s feelings. Communicate that it hurts, and you validate their feelings. Don’t ask what he/she did to invite the cyberbully into his/her life. That makes him/her scared and silent. Help him/her see that there are friends out there too. Try not to dwell on the messages and to focus on positive thoughts instead. Let him/her know that no matter what the cyberbully is saying, he/she is a wonderful person with amazing traits. Have your child find ways to relieve stress and boost confidence. He/she can exercise, join a team, meditate or pick up a new hobby to keep their mind off the cyberbullying. Make sure he/she spend time doing things they love such as sports or book clubs and hanging out with positive friends. Have he/she unplug from technology.
  • To remedy this mess, you could have your child delete any chat apps that he/she may already have. If you don’t want to go that far, you could encourage your kid to tell you immediately if he/she or someone he/she knows is being cyberbullied on these app. You could talk to your kid about not sharing anything that could hurt or embarrass himself/herself or others.
  • Make sure your child knows how to get help.
  • Work to keep communication lines open with your kids. If you sense your communication is failing, don't be afraid to call professional help if needed. If you think your child is struggling, it may be time to seek additional help.

Conclusion

We're all responsible for making the digital world a decent place.

Have you had to deal with cyberbully and what was the outcome?

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