Bullying is a problem that has been around for as long as people have been interacting with each other. Unfortunately, with the rise of technology, cyberbullying has become a serious issue. If you are a parent, it is important to know how to respond if your child is being bullied online. This article will provide you with some tips on how to deal with cyberbullying.
Digital technology has grown a lot over the years, and unfortunately, there is no way to escape it. Kids need electronic devices to complete their homework and communicate with their friends, especially since COVID-19. But, unfortunately, alongside technology came cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is more concerning than in-person bullying
While cyberbullying isn’t necessarily more damaging than in-person bullying, according to internet safety expert Bailey Huston, it has a few unique characteristics:
- The cyberbully is usually someone the target knows, but it can also be a stranger.
- The cyberbully can act anonymously.
- Cyberbullying has a potentially larger audience as posts can be seen, shared and possibly become viral.
- Cyberbullying doesn’t stop when the school bell rings. Targets can feel like they can’t escape the bully.
To prevent or stop cyberbullying, it is best to be aware of its different types
According to New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, a few common types of cyberbullying include:
Denigration: Spreading harmful, untrue, or damaging rumours and statements online that will damage an individual’s reputation.
Exclusion: Excluding a person on purpose from an online group. This is considered an indirect form of cyberbullying.
Flaming: Fighting that involves sending angry, cruel, rude, and vulgar messages to one individual or several individuals in a private or public online setting.
Happy Slapping: Attacking an individual physically as a “prank” or “joke” while others film the attack or take pictures to be distributed/posted online.
Harassment: Sending an ongoing series of hurtful, insulting online messages targeted to an individual.
Impersonation: Pretending and posing as someone else, then sending or posting material online with the intent to damage an individual’s reputation.
Outing: Sending or posting material (such as messages and images) online about a person containing sensitive, private, or embarrassing information.
Text Wars/Attacks: Hounding a targeted individual with a high amount of mean text messages and emails.
Trickery: Engaging in deception to acquire embarrassing material to make it public online.
How do I know my child is being cyberbullied?
It can be challenging for parents to spot cyberbullying since it doesn’t leave physical evidence, and tweens and teens might not open up about their experiences. However, you should look for changes in behaviours such as:
- School refusal
- Avoidance of activities like club sports or extracurricular activities
- Become upset after spending time on the computer or phone
- Withdraw from family and friends’ interaction in real life
It is essential to know that every child is different, and some may not present any unusual behaviour. That is why having open and honest communication about cyberbullying with your child is so important. Most importantly, and this will sound counterintuitive, let your child know that you WON’T restrict his access to his devices if he reports cyberbullying. While it sounds like a good idea to restrict access to avoid bullying, fear of restrictions may be why your child does not disclose the bullying to you.
What can parents do to respond to cyberbullying?
- Let your child know you are on his side
- Tell them they don’t deserve the bullying
- Assure your child that you will work with them to stop the bullying
- Respect their decision to resolve the situation independently if they wish but monitor the outcome of their attempts
- Document the cyberbullying by taking screenshots and saving texts, email, messages or photos
- Reach out to your child’s school to ask about their bullying prevention policy
- Provide documentation to the school
- Work with technology providers to report/block harassing content
- Contact the parent of the cyberbully and firmly state that the hurtful behaviour must stop
- Call an attorney or the police if your child is in danger. An attorney can help you take legal action, and the police can help you address threats of physical violence or sexual exploitation
- Use parental control apps to monitor your child’s online activities
What can your child do to respond to cyberbullying?
- Don’t respond quickly if someone is being hurtful. An angry response can escalate the problem
- Tell the bully to STOP in a calm and strong manner
- Role-play responses to cyberbullying before deciding on the best one
- Encourage your child to talk about their emotions with a trusted adult
You can use the Superpower Kids How to Document Bullying printable to gather relevant information about your child’s experience before talking to teachers and authorities.