It can be painful to discover your child is going through difficult times, particularly if they are being bullied. It can be even more difficult due to emerging technology, bullying and harassment have taken on a new form called cyberbullying.
If your child is being cyberbullied, it is sure to be a difficult time. However, there are steps you can take to comfort and protect your child from future attacks. Below you’ll find tips to help you navigate the next steps.
Find Out What Happened
Don’t brush it off
It is important to remember that cyberbullying can have drastically negative effects on your child. The most hurtful thing you can do is to ignore or belittle the problem, even if your child seems hesitant to discuss the details. Before even trying to talk about it, reassure your child that they are safe and you want to talk so you can create a plan together to stop the bullying. Because cyberbullying is facilitated through technology and technology follows children around everywhere, they often feel like there is no escape.
Keep tabs on your emotions
When you first discover your child has been cyberbullied, you may be feel shocked. If you found out about the attacks from someone other than your child, it’s possible you might even feel a twinge of anger or frustration. Although it might be tempting, trying to get justice by contacting the bully or their parents will almost always make it worse.
Once your child is ready to talk, find a quiet time when you won’t be interrupted. Let your kid explain what happened in his or her own words. Do your best to reserve from making any judgments. Listen to their story. It’s okay to offer words of comfort and engage in conversation, but make sure that your primary goal is to really hear what your child is saying.
Start by collecting all the hard evidence that you can find. This can come from screen shots of messages, photos, videos or any other content that proves your child was victimized. If any further attacks occur, continue gathering evidence and remind your child that the ultimate goal is to stop the bully. If your kid seems unwilling or afraid to help, remind them that you are also working to prevent other children from going through what they are. One the other end of the spectrum, some children may immediately want to retaliate, so it is also important to remind them that there are better ways of handling the situation.
Involve the school
If the bullying started at your kid’s school as most cases of cyberbullying do, it will be helpful for your child to contact school administration immediately. Most schools take bullying very seriously and are willing to work closely with you to help stop the bullying as well as potentially provide support services such as counseling.
While this may not always be the case, it is possible that if your child has been cyberbullied, the have also experienced some form of bullying at school or somewhere else. Ask your child if there is anybody who has witnessed the aggressor and record names. Do not attempt to contact the students or their parents yourself, but be sure to bring the information to the school along with any evidence you have collected.
Know when to involve the authorities
At the first sign of any threats of violence towards your child, contact your local authorities immediately. They will likely want to see all of the evidence you have collected, including the names of any witnesses. Remember, while involving the authorities can be intimidating, it’s their job to keep everyone safe.
Prevent Future Attacks
Alter privacy settings
While you may be tempted to disable your child’s social media account or take away their technology completely, it seems a bit unfair. Remember, they aren’t responsible for the bullying. However, most social media platforms allow you to adjust privacy settings and block certain users. If you are going to continue to allow your child to use certain platforms, go through the privacy settings on each to ensure the perpetrator is blocked and that only selected friends can see their information.
Reach out to any social media platforms or other services on which bullying has occurred. Most companies have strict policies and may block the perpetrator or choose to investigate further. If your child has been bullied through text messaging, you can also contact your cell phone provider.
Utilize online monitoring
If you’re still feeling uneasy about your child using technology after finding out what has happened, you may want to look into a child monitoring service. Programs such as KidGuard will increase your child’s safety by allowing you to do things such track your child’s location, online text messages, app messages and usage, browsing history, and more. This way, if more attacks occur you will find out immediately. Many of these programs also allow you to block unwanted contacts or limit communication to certain individuals.
Provide Emotional Support
Make sure not to end the lines of communication after you’ve gotten the details from your child. Try to check-in regularly by engaging in conversation about school and your child’s life, even if it doesn’t specifically pertain to bullying. Gently reminding them from time to time that you are there to support them may help the healing process.
Research has shown that bullying can potentially lead to, “depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy” (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services). If your child is exhibiting any of these signs or if they seem to be really struggling, it may be best to seek professional help. Guide your child towards understanding that counseling is not something to be ashamed about and that asking for help is a sign of strength.
Look into support groups
Another option if your child is struggling is to look online for support groups where your child can communicate with others that have had similar experiences. If opting for an online support group, make sure that the website you choose is secure and your child does not use their real name or any other revealing personal information. You may also want to engage in conversation with your child about their participation in any online support forum, and even possibly monitor their activity. If you don’t feel comfortable with your child joining an online support group, ask their school if they know of any local groups that may be helpful.
Effects of bullying. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved from: https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/index.html