When Cyberbullies Strike: How to Support Your Child
[12/2/2021] Kids of every generation have had to endure bullying and all manner of meanness, even outright intimidation and threats. Sadly, the internet has only exacerbated the problem.
When once a bullied child could escape its effects by simply leaving the playground or schoolyard, bullying now follows kids home digitally. From a laptop to their smart phone, kids can literally take cyberbullying with them wherever their devices are. In today’s digitally-dominated world, it can feel like there is simply no escape from its impacts.
It’s no wonder that so many children are experiencing serious emotional, even psychological harm, from cyberbullying. The good news for parents is that there are concrete steps they can take to help their kids navigate and mitigate this unfortunate part of their growing-up.
What You Can Do
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce cyberbullying and help your child deal with its fallout.
You know your kids and can often sense their emotions, so trust your instincts when you think something may be wrong. Perhaps they seem less enthusiastic about activities they typically enjoy, or are suddenly quieter than usual. You may notice signs of lack of sleep, or that they’re complaining of more frequent headaches or stomach issues. Try to notice a pattern in changes in mood and demeanor after they’ve been using their digital devices.
Reach out to them and ask them to share what may be happening, taking care to do so as gently and warmly as possible. Often kids feel that their parents may be unhappy with their “overuse” of digital devices and become defensive, so try to be mindful of avoiding an accusatory tone in order to encourage disclosure and open-dialogue.
Once you’ve identified the source of the cyberbullying, do not forget to document it! Screenshots of the offensive messages can serve as key evidence later when dealing more directly with the problem.
In response to this pervasive problem, many apps have reporting mechanisms to remove the offensive content and even suspend or ban offenders. You can also “block” the cyberbully from viewing and interacting with your child’s social media page. If the cyberbullying is happening at school, learn your school’s reporting requirements and use its resources to safely and appropriately confront the problem.
Practice empathy and understanding, without minimizing the very real pain your child may be experiencing. Gently remind them that these problems pass with time, and so does the pain. And take the time to post supportive comments on their pages, and encourage other positive friends, peers and family-members to post favorable comments, too. That can serve to drown out negativity and even drive bullies away.
The internet is also a source of great connectivity that can bring people together to learn and share, so don’t forget its countless benefits, too.