As parents and caregivers it is our nature to protect and shield our children from hurtful and harmful environments; we research school districts, we interview babysitters, we test food, and so on. With all the things we do to be proactive against things that can harm our children, it’s hard to protect your child if you don't understand the problem.
Cyberbullying is very common and can go unseen. As parents we need to acknowledge cyberbullying and be proactive by having an open conversation about what to do and how to react if the situation occurs. Here are some practical tips to help parents and children prevent and stop cyberbullying.
What Can We Do As Parents?
1. Keep the computer in a common area of the home. Do not allow it in your children's bedrooms. Monitor their online usage.If your children use a tablet or a phone, set the password and set “social media” time and log your child out after the time expires.
2. Learn how various social networking websites work. Become familiar with Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Ask your children if they will show you their profile pages. Set up parental controls to prompt for passwords for all apps not just the free ones. Snapchat should be used very cautiously with kids.
3. Have open conversation about online issues. Let them know they can come to you for help if anything is inappropriate, upsetting, or dangerous. Take the opportunity to talk about examples of online bullying....any comment section from a celebrity will act as a perfect reference for how not to act.
4. Build trust with your children. Set time limits, explain your reasoning, and lay the ground rules for internet use. Keep in mind that you lead by example, so your comments and time spent on social media will be monitored by them as well.
5. Tell your children not to respond to any cyberbullying threats or comments and do not delete any of the messages. Save the evidence. The only good news about digital bullying is that the harassing messages can usually be captured, saved, and shown to someone who can help. You need to do this even if it’s minor stuff, in case things escalate.
6. Don't overreact. If your child is being bullied, be supportive and understanding. Find out how long the bullying has been going on and work together to find a solution. Let your children know they are not to blame for being bullied.
7. Don't underreact by telling your children to "shrug it off" or just deal with it. Being bullied at school in front of a group of peers is bad enough, but being bullied in front of everyone online is worse. Don’t underestimate cyberbullies….even on private messages or snapchat a screenshot can be forwarded. The emotional pain of being bullied is very real. Ditch the "kids will be kids" saying on this issue.
8. Don't take away your children's computers if they come to you with a problem. It seems like a natural reaction to eliminate the problem but it’s more of a punishment than a solution.
9. Talk to your school's guidance counselors, administration, teachers and aids so they can keep an eye out for bullying during school hours.
10. If there are threats of physical violence or the bullying continues to escalate, get law enforcement involved. Again, don’t underestimate cyber threats as they can gain momentum very quickly.
11. Don’t retaliate. Getting back at the bully turns you into one and reinforces the bully’s behavior. Help avoid a whole cycle of aggression. Even calling the bully or parents out online is risky behavior as it feeds the process. Pick up the phone and call.
12. Block the bully. If the harassment is coming in the form of instant messages, texts, or profile comments, use privacy tools to block the person.
13. Be civil. Even if you don’t like someone, treat people the way you want to be treated.
14. Talk to your child about being a friend, not a bystander. Watching or forwarding mean messages empowers bullies and hurts victims even more. It’s time to let bullies know their behavior is unacceptable. Try to help the victim by reporting the behavior.