How to deal with cyberbullying: Tips for parents

How to deal with cyberbullying: Tips for parents

Cyberbullying is becoming an increasingly large problem. DoSomething.org says 43% of kids report being bullied online, and 70% report seeing bullying online. Cell phones are the most common way cyberbullies reach their victims.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and that includes cyberbullying. Parent need to be aware of it, know what they can do to be proactive to try to prevent it before it starts, and they also need to know how to deal with cyberbullying should their child(ren) become victims.

How should parents respond to cyberbullying?

Justin Patchin, Ph.D., and Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., co-directors of the Cyberbullying Resource Center, answered this question in their document "Responding to Cyberbullying: 10 Tips for Parents." Dr. Patchin graciously allowed me to share those tips.

1. Make sure your child feels (and is) safe and secure, and convey unconditional support. Parents must demonstrate to their children through words and actions that they both desire the same end result: that the cyberbullying stop and that life does not become even more difficult.

2. Thoroughly investigate the situation so that you fully understand what happened, who was involved, and how it all started. Getting to the root cause of the behavior will help you develop an appropriate response – whether your child was the target or the bully.

3. Refrain from instantly banning access to instant messaging, e-mail, social networking Web sites, a cell phone, or the Internet in general. This strategy neither addresses the underlying inter-personal conflict, nor eliminates current or future instances of victimization.

4. Work with your child’s school. Schedule a meeting with school administrators, a counselor, or trusted teacher. They are trained to deal with these kinds of problems. If you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, consult with educators from other schools.

5. When necessary, contact and work with the Internet Service Provider, Cell Phone Service Provider, or Content Provider (Facebook or YouTube, for example) to investigate the issue or remove the offensive material.

6. When appropriate, contact the police. For example, law enforcement should be contacted when physical threats are involved or a crime has possibly been committed (such as capturing, sending, or posting sexually-explicit images of minors).

7. Talk to other parents through school and community organizations to raise awareness and determine the extent to which cyberbullying is occurring among other kids in the area (chances are, it is). Alert other parents if your child is being cyberbullied, as this might prompt them to inquire about the online experiences of their own kids.

8. Apply firm consequences if your child engages in cyberbullying behaviors, and escalate punishment if the behaviors repeat or are particularly serious, so that your child realizes the unacceptability of harassing others online.

9. Avoid contacting the parents of the cyber-bully unless you have a good relationship with them and know they will respond appropriately.

10. Talk to your child about the problem in detail, and make sure you fully understand the roles of both parties, the motivations, and how technology was misused. Work together with the child to arrive at a mutually-agreeable course of action, including soliciting their input for resolving the situation (what would *they* like to see happen?).

The Cyberbullying Resource Center provides up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents. Given how quickly the internet is evolving, Patchin recommends checking back often for updates and current info.

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I would add that taking screen shots of offensive or threatening messages/photos/posts can be helpful.

Often messages are deleted or taken down before they are preserved, but a screen shot can preserve both the offensive content but also serve as a way to make the date and time it was visible. It can be concrete evidence that is good for parents to have, especially when talking with the police and ISPs.

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of the types of activities youth are engaged in online and teach
teens about cyber-ethics, responsibility, and Internet safety.

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