Cyberbullies: How Parents Can Prevent, Spot, and Stop Online Harassment
By Emily Graham, Guest Writer
As a parent, cyberbullying can seem like a foreign concept. When you were a kid, bullies were something you dealt with at school, not a threat that followed you around 24/7. However, now that the digital world is a central part of our lives, cyberbullying has become a major issue threatening children’s health and well-being.
Talking to Kids About Cyberbullying
You can’t always prevent your child from being cyberbullied. However, teaching kids how to stay safe online reduces their risk of becoming a victim. Talk to your kids about social media and what they share online. Children who know how to apply privacy settings and block problematic users are less likely to be targeted by a bully online. Rather than secretly monitoring your child’s online activity, maintain open communication about what your child does online, place computers in public areas of the house, and ask to occasionally review their social media profiles. Children respond to perceived privacy violations with increased secrecy, so it’s better to be honest and open.
Explain what to do if your child is targeted by a cyberbully
PureSight recommends that children should never respond to a cyberbully. Instead, kids should inform a trusted adult and save the evidence before blocking the bully. Cyberbullies can also be reported to social networks to have the offending account disabled. If the evidence is extensive or is deleted before you’re able to record it, a digital forensic expert like Secure Forensics can help you recover and assemble cyberbullying evidence. You’ll need proof of the cyberbullying in case you have to take legal action.
Spotting the Signs of Cyberbullying
Even after talking to your kids, they might not come to you when they experience cyberbullying. Many children feel ashamed about being bullied or worry that if they confide in their parents, they’ll lose their online privileges. That means it’s on you to identify the signs of cyberbullying.
Understood.org lists these warning signs to look out for:
● A sudden decrease in computer or smartphone usage.
● Secrecy regarding online activities.
● Nervousness or mood changes when reading messages on social media or email.
● Becoming withdrawn and/or avoiding school and social activities.
● Comments about social problems or a lack of friends.
If you notice these signs in your child, it’s important to take action. Cyberbullying goes beyond normal adolescent social problems and is a serious threat to a child’s health and safety. Children who are victims of cyberbullying have an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression and are twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm than kids who don’t experience cyberbullying.
What to Do if Your Child is a Victim of Cyberbullying
Once your child has confirmed the cyberbullying, it’s time to get to work. In addition to saving evidence and blocking the bully, there are a few steps you can take to shut down a cyberbully.
● Tell the school:
Schools may not be able to punish a bully for actions off-campus, but many schools have found creative strategies for addressing cyberbullying. Counseling, restorative justice, and cyber ethics education are a few techniques schools have applied to curb the rise of cyberbullying.
● Talk to the child’s parents:
Parents rarely know when their child is being a bully online.
Reach out to the bully’s parents to let them know what’s happening. With luck, they’ll take a more active role in their child’s online activities and put a stop to the bullying.
● Reach out to law enforcement:
When the above efforts don’t stop cyberbullying, it’s time to contact the authorities — especially if the cyberbullying involves threats of violence or damaging images. Many parents worry that calling law enforcement is overkill, but when your child’s life could be on the line, it’s worth exploring every avenue. Parents often feel they have little control over their children’s online lives. But the truth is that parents play an integral role in stopping cyberbullying. Now that you know what to look for and how to take action, you can protect your child from this dangerous online threat.