Tips for Parents: How to Avoid Cyberbullying

An important part of being a parent is protecting our children. One threat to our children’s safety is called cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is repeated, harmful behavior that happens over electronic devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. A survey with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 15.7% of youth are electronically bullied. This is a troubling statistic, so let’s look into cyberbullying and how to help our children avoid it.

Key takeaways:
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    Cyberbullying is using cell phones or computers to repeatedly send, post, or share false or harmful content about others.
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    There are proven ways to help your child avoid cyberbullying through strong relationships with friends, peers, and teachers.
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    Learn about where cyberbullying happens and how to be smart with electronic devices and social media.
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    Talk with your child. Help them solve problems before they become too big. Make sure they know cyberbullying is violence and is unacceptable either toward them or from them.
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    Monitor your child’s online activity.
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    If your child cyberbullies someone, calmly deal with the reasons why, stop the bullying completely and find resources online, at your child’s school, or through your pediatrician.
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    If you suspect your child is dealing with depression, substance use, or self-harm due to cyber bullying, seek help immediately.

How to protect your child from cyberbullying

Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. Research shows that children and teens who have strong, healthy friendships, positive interactions with classmates, and good relationships with teachers are less likely to be bullied. Encourage your child to surround themselves with kind and positive people.

Another way to protect your child from online bullies is to know where it’s happening. Cyberbullying can happen on:

  • Social media like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.
  • Messaging apps or texts.
  • Instant messaging or direct messaging.
  • Online forums, chat rooms, or message boards.
  • Email.
  • Online gaming.

We can also avoid cyberbullying by being smart about technology:

Never let your child accept friend requests or connect with people they do not know.

Don’t join every social media platform and avoid sites with poor security.

Teach your child that whatever they post will be online forever.

Assume that nothing is private and only post what you don’t mind everyone seeing.

Keep your accounts private and password protected.

Block people who are inappropriate.

Do not reply to any type of cyberbullying.

Do not post pictures or messages that deliberately try to anger, offend, or embarrass others.

Never post things that have private sexual content (sexting).

How to talk to your child so he or she won’t become a cyberbully

Now let’s consider the other side of cyberbullying. If your child is the bully, accept it calmly and deal with it head-on. Cyberbullying is a form of violence. It has unique challenges because it can be:

Persistent: electronic devices offer 24-hour communication, so it’s very hard to get a break from being bullied.

Permanent: most electronic information is permanently online, and negative posts can harm the victim and bully in college admissions or jobs.

Hidden: cyberbullying can be hard to notice by parents, guardians, or teachers since it can be done quietly.

Children and teens who feel warmth and support from their parents are less likely to develop serious problems such as bullying others. Teach your children at a young age that violence is unacceptable by using violence-free discipline at home.

Talk to your child:

Teach your child that violence is unacceptable. Read age-appropriate books together on resolving conflicts.

Let them know you have clear expectations for their behavior.

Tell your child he or she should talk to you about any problems before they are tempted to treat others badly.

Ask your child what they are doing online, who they are with, and where they are going.

Talk about how you are checking their cell phones or tablets, and if they engage in bullying they lose the privilege of using the device.

Make sure they understand that because cyberbullying is violence. There are laws in every state to protect those who are bullied.

What to do if your child is an online bully already

It is a normal part of growing up for kids to develop independence by testing rules. The occasional lapse in judgment or argument with a peer is NOT bullying. There is only cause for concern if a child shows a repeated pattern of causing harm or stress to others.

Here’s what to do:

Accept it. Don’t ignore the problem, but accept that your child is hurting others.

Be calm. Don’t yell, embarrass, or ridicule your child because this will only make matters worse.

Keep talking. Ask your child what caused them to act out. Maybe they are seeking to hurt a peer because they were hurt first. Kids should know they can talk over their problems with you.

Stop the bullying. Make sure the bullying stops immediately. No one should be a victim of bullying.

Get to the heart of the issue. Find out why your child is behaving this way. Have they been hurt? Do they need more monitoring from you? Are they stressed?

Investigate. Find out what happened, where, and for how long your child has been bullying another person.

Teach compassion. Think of an example that would hurt your child if they were bullied. Everyone has triggers or weak spots that can be targeted. If your child can see how it would feel to be bullied, they can learn empathy for others.

Monitor your child’s online life. Use parental controls or apps to watch their phone or tablet. Randomly check their devices to see what they are doing, until they have matured and are making good decisions.

Connect with others. Talk with other parents or guardians about bullying to ensure all the kids know bullying is never tolerated.

Remain current. Know what social media sites kids are using because some are inappropriate for kids. Seek resources online, with your pediatrician, and through your child’s guidance department at school.

Realize that cyberbullying is a problem our kids may face. Use the parent tips and resources mentioned here to protect your child against cyberbullying or avoid your child cyberbullying others. If we, as parents, show consistent effort it helps our children avoid cyber bullying!