According to recent statistics, one in three teenagers and one in six preteens have been victims of cyberbullying. If your child has been on the receiving end of a cyberbully's attack, there are some specific steps you should take to discuss the issue with your child and to prevent further attacks from having an impact on her life.
Time Required: Hours to days
- Watch for warning signs. Cyberbullying can be quite embarrassing and often our children are reluctant to talk about it when it happens. Experts suggest that some of the warning signs of cyberbullying include:
- Dropping grades
- Avoiding going to school or social activities
- Lower self-esteem
- Stress-related health issues
- Open the communication channels. Often, fathers will find out through the back door or by seeing warning signs that their children have been victims of cyberbullying. Sit down with your child and talk about the experience. How did she feel? What does she think might have caused the attack? Does she know who did it? Has she wanted to retaliate?
- Show empathy. At this stage, it is important to let your child know that you feel bad about the situation, but that it was not her fault. Helping her feel a connection to you now and later will help you stay on top of the issue and give her good advice.
- Generate ideas for your child to address the issue. As you talk about the cyberbullying experience, it is important to work with your child to develop strategies that she can accept and implement. Usually, retaliation only escalates the attack's intensity, so looking for ways to address the issue head on and in person, without further risk of bullying, becomes all important.
- Document the attacks. Print off the social networking pages, emails or text messages when they come. As you work through all of the issues, having consistent and accurate documentation is critical. Sometimes cyberbullying raises to a legal issue (assault, harassment, terroristic threats, etc.) and having good documentation will be helpful to the authorities.
- Block the bully. If the bully has been sending harassing text messages, block him or her from your child's phone list. Block the bully's access to your child's email or social networking pages. Children are notorious at sharing their passwords with friends, so change all of your child's passwords for email, social networking, instant messaging and more. Taking some of these precautions will help prevent further attacks.
- Communicate with the school. If the cyberbullying involves people at school, notify the school officials of the problem. They can often block Internet access at school, which will often slow down the frequency of the attacks. They can also watch for other instances of violations using school resources and take appropriate action. Most schools have strict policies about cyberbullying.
- Stay on top of your kids' online presence. Make sure you have your children's passwords for their email, social networking and instant messaging. Your family cell phone provider may also have parental tools available where you can track your child's text messages as well. Check these accounts frequently to stay on top of issues before they become unmanageable.
- Call your cell phone provider to see what tools might be available to regulate your child's use of their phone. You may be able to block text messages by specific senders or even read copies of text message traffic.
- Remember that one of the reasons that cyberbullying is a problem is that the bully does not get immediate feedback as he or she would in a real life bullying experience. So sometimes the attacks can escalate quickly and get out of hand almost within a few hours. Vigilance is very important.
- Remember that cyberbullying can occur in many venues. Text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, gaming sites and other websites can all be tools for cyberbullying. Parents need to be aware of all ways in which their children communicate online.
What You Need
- Open communication skills
- Creative problem solving
- Access to your child's online accounts