Cyberbullying has become a significant problem among children and teenagers, and it has even led to tragic events in some cases. As a parent, it’s essential to be aware of what cyberbullying is, how it affects your child, and what you can do to help.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying refers to the use of technology, such as social media, texting, and email, to harass, spread rumors, intimidate, or embarrass someone. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying can occur at any time and place, and its effects can last much longer. Cyberbullies can also hide behind anonymous identities, making it difficult to identify the perpetrator.
Why it’s important to help your child
As a parent, it’s essential to recognize the signs of cyberbullying and help your child cope with the situation. Cyberbullying can cause emotional distress in children, leading to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts. By being supportive, listening, and encouraging your child to seek help, you can help them navigate these challenging situations.
A 2019 survey conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center found that 17% of students reported being cyberbullied at some point in their life, and 8% reported being cyberbullied in the last 30 days. The same survey showed that 34% of middle and high school students have experienced online harassment. These numbers emphasize the importance of addressing cyberbullying as a serious issue that affects many children and teenagers.
1 – Talking to your child about cyberbullying
Creating an open dialogue with your child
It’s crucial to have a conversation with your child about cyberbullying. Create an open dialogue with them, so they feel comfortable sharing their experiences with you. Make sure they understand what cyberbullying is and its potential impact.
Teach them how to recognize and report cyberbullying by telling them to:
- Save evidence
- Block the bully, and
- Seek Support from a trusted adult.
Teaching empathy and kindness
Teaching your child empathy and kindness can help prevent them from becoming a cyberbully. Encourage your child to think before they post anything online and teach them that their words can hurt others. Explain to them how it feels to be bullied, and how important it is to treat others with respect. Encourage them to stand up for others who are being bullied and to report any incidents they witness.
2 – Teaching your child to recognize cyberbullying
Different types of cyberbullying
It’s important to teach children about the different types of cyberbullying. This can include spreading rumors, posting embarrassing photos or videos, or sending aggressive or threatening messages. By knowing what cyberbullying looks like, children can better protect themselves and others.
Signs your child may be experiencing cyberbullying
As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying. These can include changes in behavior, mood, or sleep patterns, avoiding social situations or activities they once enjoyed, or becoming withdrawn. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to talk to your child about their online experiences and provide them with the support they need.
3 – Monitoring your child’s mobile device usage
Using parental control apps
As technology continues to advance, it’s important for parents to monitor their child’s mobile device usage to ensure their safety. Parental control apps can be a helpful tool in this regard. These apps allow parents to set limits on screen time, block inappropriate websites or apps, and monitor their child’s online activity. However, it’s important to use these apps in a balanced way that still allows your child to have some independence and privacy.
Creating boundaries and guidelines
Another way to monitor your child’s mobile device usage is by creating clear boundaries and guidelines. This can include setting a limit on the amount of time your child can spend on their device each day, forbidding phone usage during social gatherings or meals, and modeling healthy habits by limiting your own screen time. It’s important to have open and honest communication with your child about these guidelines and the reasons behind them. This can help build trust and promote responsible device usage.
4 – Teaching your Child about Online Safety
Keeping Personal Information Private
To help your child stay safe online, it’s important to teach them the importance of keeping their personal information private. This includes not sharing their full name, address, phone number, or other personal details on social media or with strangers online. Encourage your child to set their profiles to private and to only accept friend requests from people they know in real life.
Avoiding Risky Online Behavior
Another aspect of teaching your child about online safety involves helping them avoid risky behavior. This includes not clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown attachments, not sharing passwords with friends, and being cautious about meeting people in person whom they’ve only met online.
5 – Encouraging Your Child to Report Cyberbullying
Reporting to a Trusted Adult
If a child experiences cyberbullying, they should be encouraged to report it to a trusted adult. This could be a parent, teacher, or counselor who can provide support and guidance. Children need to feel safe and comfortable reporting any incidents of cyberbullying to an adult who can help them.
Reporting to the School or Internet Service Provider
If the bullying continues and becomes more severe, it may be necessary to report it to the school or internet service provider. These entities can take action to stop the bullying and protect children from further harm. Parents should make sure their children understand the importance of reporting cyberbullying and that there are people who can help them.
6 – Helping Your Child Develop Coping Mechanisms
Teaching children about online safety and how to report cyberbullying is essential, but it’s also crucial to help them develop coping mechanisms. Here are two effective strategies:
Children may feel stressed or anxious about online experiences, especially if they encounter cyberbullying. Teach them deep breathing exercises or other relaxation strategies to manage their stress and calm themselves down. Encourage them to take breaks and do activities they enjoy as part of their self-care routine.
Positive Self-Talk and Mindset
Negative self-talk can undermine a child’s confidence and self-esteem, leading to feelings of anxiety or depression. Encourage your child to replace negative thoughts with positive self-talk. Remind them of their strengths and achievements and help them focus on the positive aspects of online experiences.
7 – Seeking Professional Help
While teaching coping mechanisms to children can be beneficial, it’s important to recognize when professional help may be necessary. Seeking support from a counselor, therapist, or mental health professional can provide additional tools and guidance for navigating online experiences.
When to Seek Professional Help
If your child is exhibiting signs of depression, anxiety, or is struggling to manage their emotions related to online experiences, it may be time to seek professional help. Other signs may include changes in behavior, sleep patterns, or appetite. Additionally, if your child has experienced severe or prolonged cyberbullying, seeking professional support can be helpful.
If your child has suffered from bullying, cyber or otherwise and needs help, please contact us today.
Identifying Available Resources
Several resources are available for parents and children seeking professional help. Many schools and community organizations provide mental health services or can provide referrals to local professionals.