Bullying occurs everywhere– in our schools, our workplaces and on the playgrounds. A new place for bullies to torment their victims has come about in the last several years– online. Social media (websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace etc.) have exploded in popularity and given bullies a whole new platform from which to spew their nastiness. Sometimes, the victim has never even met their tormentors in person.
Cyber bullying is every bit as serious as any other type of bullying, and sometimes cyber bullying can also lead to other types of bullying with very serious consequences. It isn’t as simple as stepping away from the computer or cell phone to make it go away.
Help Prevent Your Child from Becoming a Victim
As a parent, what can you do to help prevent your child from becoming a victim? Unfortunately, anytime your child spends online puts them at risk. If they are chatting with strangers, this takes the risks to a whole new level. Talk to your kids and make sure they understand the dangers. Everything they say or do online is out there forever for everyone to see, not just the intended recipient. Some kids don’t realize this, or if they do, they don’t quite get the implications of it. Give them the skills to be safe while online so that they can have positive experiences and interactions.
How to Tell if Your Child is Being Bullied Online
One big way is to observe your child’s attitude towards technology; if they once loved their cellphone, computer, ipod, tablet and now are not using them like they used to, or even avoid them, that could be a big clue that something is going on. Sometimes, their personality changes too, much as it would if they were being bullied in person. They can become withdrawn, sullen, and depressed. If you think something isn’t right, listen to that instinct and resist the urge to chalk it up to them just being cranky or normal teen angst.
How to Stop Cyber Bullying
The best way to help stop any bullying is to speak out, and cyber bullying is no exception. Make sure your kids know they can come to you with anything, anytime. However, lots of kids won’t talk to their parents because that wouldn’t be cool. Make sure they know that you understand this, and if they are not comfortable talking to you about it, they can talk to a teacher, their principal, or a friend’s parents– really any adult they trust– and keep talking to as many of them as possible! Speaking out is the key here, and help is available. As a parent, stand by your kids and talk to others, including the police.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Cyber Bullying
The best way to start the conversation is to just ask! It’s amazing what kids will tell us when we just ask. Something as simple as “What can you tell me about cyber bullying? Is this something that goes on in your school?” can get the conversation started.
How to Make Sure Your Child is Not a Cyber Bully
Talk to your kids about bullying, including cyber bullying, and let them know what behaviours are not ok! Let your kids know that if you ever see them bullying someone, that the consequences will be severe. You know your child best, so you would know what would be the best punishment– from taking their cell phone or computer away from them to taking them to having them volunteer for community service– and be sure you follow through. If you are concerned that it is an ongoing problem, you may want to have them see a counsellor.
To take it one step further, we need to know why a child is a bully. Sometimes it is an isolated incident to “be cool” with other kids, or to boost themselves up by putting someone else down. However, if a kid is a bully in the classroom or online, there’s usually something else behind it, and unfortunately it may be a cry for help. It could be that they are being abused or neglected at home. It’s a big issue and a lot of times, people don’t even think of that. We are often quick to want to punish, when sometimes the bully also needs help.
Talk to Other Parents
Talking to other parents can help you all understand what may be going on with your kids. Communication is the key, and other parents may have ideas and insights that hadn’t occurred to you. Share your ideas in the comments below!
Be part of the solution and help put a stop to cyber-bullying!