9 Steps Parents Can Take When Your Child is Cyberbullied

Dec 18, 2016

As we all know, cyber bullying can be dangerous. Being mocked online can be particularly hurtful to a child, who may feel as if there is no escape from the ridicule. How can you tell if your child is being cyber bullied?

The behavioral warning signs are similar to those of face to face bullying, however, they occur around time spent online. A change in your child’s habits when they are online, such as spending much less time on his phone or depressed, angry or disruptive moods may be a clue as well. He may ask you to block emails or phone numbers or shut down his online accounts after being bullied. You can also search social media to find out if accounts are being opened under his name, which is another form of bullying.

If you are certain that your child is a victim, it’s time for you to get involved to protect your child. Here are 9 steps you can take to protect your child from cyber bullying:

  1. Start by talking
    While getting all the details sounds like a good idea, your child most likely will not feel comfortable and your questions may feel like an interrogation. Instead, encourage him to discuss his feelings by talking about your own online experiences, weaving in the good and the bad. Or, recruit one of his peers or someone he looks up to for this conversation. Discuss how to handle problems on social media such as being unfriended, heated discussions or being flamed. It will help him to know that online social problems happen to everyone.

  2. Teach your child online etiquette
    One of the best ways to prevent cyber bullying is to make sure that kids know what it is and what it looks like. Your child should understand what is and isn’t appropriate to say and do online, and that social media has rules too. Show him that it is far easier to cross the line into bullying when you are anonymous and behind a computer than when you are face to face. Make sure he understands that he, too, must respect others online. It is possible that the bullying started with one of his actions, however, be careful not to lay the blame for being bullied on him.

  3. Don’t stalk his social media
    While it may seem like the best course of action, going behind your child’s back will erode his trust in you. Instead, continue the discussion by getting him to open up about his online activities, like discussing which social media he likes. You can draw a response from comments like, “You should share that photo” or “Let’s see if your friend is online now.” Getting him to engage about his online activities will help you discover what he is reluctant to discuss and what makes him anxious. While I am not an advocate of stalking their social media, I do believe in installing a parental control software that can send you alerts when hate speech or cyberbullying is detected so you can have a proactive discussion.

  4. Limit online access
    If you see clear behavioral changes, like anxiety or depression, around the time he is online you may want to limit his access. Set clear rules and guidelines on tech usage, including what to do when problems or uncomfortable situations arise. You can also set up Internet filters to block pornography and profanity from his computers and mobile devices. If his mood does not improve, you may want to consider shutting down his accounts altogether.

  5. Recruit online friends
    As we all know, Facebook arguments can get heated but its good to have someone in your corner. Does your child have peers online who “have his back” should he get into an argument? Does he have friends he looks up to online that engage with him? If not, social media may not be the best medium for his social engagement.

  6. Protect your child offline
    It’s important to know if your child engages with the bully offline. Is this one of his classmates? Is it someone he met at an extracurricular activity? If so, your child may also be experiencing bullying in the real world and you can address that through the proper authorities (school administration, team captain, etc.).

  7. Don’t engage the bully or his or her family online
    Making additional comments on social media will only fan the flames of these incidents, and a discussion via email can be misconstrued. If you know who is doing the bullying, you can reach out to his or her parents if you have a relationship with them to discuss calmly but be careful before taking this step. Many parents are sensitive about such accusations and meeting face to face without a neutral third party may only make things worse.

  8. Report and document misconduct
    Rule violations can be reported to the social medium, web host or online system. Threats of physical harm, however, should be reported to the police. Be sure to keep screen shots of all comments and images, especially those that are inappropriate, threatening or profane.

  9. Get your child actively engaged offline
    If a bullied child is alone and friendless there is potential for him to experience depression and harmful behaviors. Help him to foster a hobby that he likes and can share with others, such martial arts, photography or hiking. Finding positive friendships will provide him the support he needs to promote healthy self-esteem.

Cyber bullying is a real problem because it’s easy for kids to hide it from parents. If you feel your child is experience it, these steps can help protect your child so that he can develop a positive self-image and avoid the harm that comes from bullying.