One of reasons cyber bullying often quickly escalates into a huge problem is because around 90% of parents are not aware their children are being affected by it. There are several reasons children and teenagers don’t open up with their parents if they’re being cyber bullied: they may think you’ll make the situation worse, or they may be terrified you’ll remove their technology devices from them leading to a social catastrophe!
The key to stopping cyber bullying therefore is to be aware that it’s happening in the first place so that you can support your child and nip it in the bud. Here we’ll discuss several positive actions you can take if you find out your child is involved in cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying may be harder to detect than physical bullying. You may not find your child with a black eye or covered in bruises. However, the lack of physical evidence doesn’t mean your child isn’t experiencing significant pain.
There are several signs that can indicate cyber bullying is a problem for your child. These include, but are not restricted to:
Don’t under-estimate how much cyber bullying can affect your child. Many lives have been lost and ruined by cyber bullying. The old “sticks and stones” saying couldn’t be further from the truth.
The fact that the cyber bully may be saying things about your child that aren’t true doesn’t mean your child won’t believe them. Children are not thick-skinned and their emotions can run wild.
Cyber bullying is also much worse than physical bullying in many ways – it’s harder to escape from, it’s often more mean than other forms of bullying (children become much braver behind a screen and say things they’d never say to someone’s face), and more people are involved in it. An argument that started out between two people can soon be shared around a whole school, potentially leading to complete social isolation for your child.
It isn’t hard to see how children can proceed down the path of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Consider it a blessing that you’re aware your child is being cyber bullied; now you have an opportunity to do something about it. It’s important that your initial response is appropriate if you want any hope of your child confiding with you in future.
Your role as a parent is to support your child in every way you can. Initially, that means listening to them without judgement, blame or any kind of negative reaction. In other words, stay calm. This can be easier said than done!
Try to understand what your child is going through. Really put yourself in their shoes. The better you can understand their pain, the more empathetic you can be and the more appropriate your response is likely to be.
Show your child that you love them unconditionally. Regardless of any role they may have played or conversations they may have had with the cyber bully, they need to know that you’re on their side no matter what.
It may help to tell your child that negative comments being spread about them aren’t true, but be careful not to dismiss them too lightly either. Whether there’s any truth to the comments or not, your child may believe them and shouldn’t be criticised for doing so.
Now that you’ve helped your child emotionally, it’s time to get practical. Before deleting any cyber bullying, activity make sure you keep evidence of it – screen shots are fine.
Decide with your child if you want to report the cyber bullying and if so, who to. Cyber bullying can be reported to their school, to the social network, and depending on the nature of the comments and how serious they are, to the police. Your child may not wish to proceed down this path, but they have the chance not only to stop themselves from being cyber bullied any more, but also to prevent that cyber bully from moving on to their next victim.
Your child can then block the cyber bully from their social networks. A bully of any kind is looking for a reaction, and the beauty of most social networks is that you have the ability to simply block others from being able to keep in touch with you. If the social network being used doesn’t allow this, it’s worth considering not using this particular network anymore.
Ruth Dearing is the founder of Children and Technology, a public speaker, international best-selling author of “How To Keep Your Children Safe Online…And Put An End To Internet Addiction”, and a mother of two. Her expertise and passion lies in helping parents keep their children safe online.