How to deal with cyber bullying as a parent
PNB MetLife 19-05-2016 11:36:08 AM
Approximately 1 in 4 teenagers reported an experience with cyber bullying before graduating secondary school. As a parent in the age of the Internet, it can be difficult to know how to have a conversation around cyber bullying. Guiding you in such conversations, we teamed up with Dr. Bridget Green from the George Washington University, who has studied and researched traditional bullying and cyber bullying. Discover answers and conversation starters to initiate a dialogue with your child about cyber bullying. Read More
- What is the best way to start a conversation about cyber bullying with my child?
Conversations about cyber bullying can occur at any time, and regardless of where the conversations occur, it is imperative that these talks happen. To support communication and the learning process, tell your child your opinion and/or view of the topic and the potential consequences of cyber bullying as the cyber bully.
When you talk to your child, it is important to comfort them and ask questions about cyber bullying. Ask your child to define cyber bullying and if you feel the need to add to the definition, begin your response with the part of the definition in which you both agree. Starting the conversation, you might want to start on a related topic, such as an argument between siblings. A potential exchange about the actual topic could look like this:
Parent: How would you define cyber bullying?
Child: One person being mean to another person on the computer.
Parent: Good point. I agree that cyber bullying is being mean to another person through the use of computers and cell phones. I would also say that being mean online has to occur more than once because some people just have bad days and say things they don’t truly believe. If you see that someone is being mean to a specific person again and again, you know that someone is trying to hurt that person’s feelings.
Provide your child with an opportunity to understand and define cyber bullying. This interaction also assists in building empathy skills for your child when you explain that others may say things because they are sad, frustrated, or stressed. Empathy training can prevent your child from immediately interpreting and reacting to something he or she thought might be cyber bullying.
- Where are common places my child might experience cyber bullying?
As your child spends more time online, he or she increases the chance of experiencing cyber bullying. On popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, teens can post pictures, videos, and comments, and send private, direct messages to peers. Cyber bullying occurs on public sites and anonymous apps; therefore, it is important, as part of your parental control and Internet safety, to discuss cyber bullying with your child beforehand.
While cyber bullying occurs on various social media sites, gaming, and anonymous apps, it is important to constantly communicate and reinforce positive online behaviour with your child.
- What are the signs my child is being cyber bullied?
There are emotional and behavioural signs that can be related to cyber bullying. Individuals who have experienced cyber bullying expressed that they felt anxious, sad, and even depressed after using the Internet. You may notice your child becoming quiet, distant, or tearful after using the computer. Your child may also suddenly close out of websites when you enter the room, and avoid conversations about online activity. Victims of cyber bullying may also refuse to go to school, refuse to use technology, and participate in traditional bullying on or off of school grounds themselves.
- What should I do if my child is a victim of cyber bullying?
It is important to be aware of how you respond to hearing that your child is a cyber victim and to effectively handle the cyber bullying, as your reaction will influence your child’s future conversations with you. Do not take your child’s computer and/or smartphone, and do not tell your child to “just turn off the computer if the words bother you.” If you take away your child’s technology because they disclosed to you that they were receiving cyber bullying-like messages, you are punishing them for appropriately responding to an event. As part of your parental control it is important to discuss your child’s emotions.
- What should I do if my child is a cyber bully?
While it is important to know how to respond to potential victimisation, it is also vital that you teach your child not to cyber bully. If you discover that your child is cyber bullying others, it is important to stay in control of your emotions and not react in an aggressive manner. Review the posts, threads, or messages with your child to create a sense of Internet safety. Ask them why they sent the messages, and how they would feel if these messages were directed towards them. This will build empathy skills, which can improve how your child interacts online. Finally, it is recommended that your child write the cyber victim an apology letter for his or her behaviour.
- What is the best way for me to scan my child’s online activity without feeling like I’m intruding?
While you may not want to intrude on your child’s life or development, you do want to ensure he or she is safe on and offline. As you will regularly check on your kids and their friends in real-life situation about how they feel and whether they have fun, you want to do the same online.
Parents should apply a check-in mentality to online activities. Online check-ins can be difficult because online communication cannot always be overheard or accessed by an adult. Some parents perform online check-ins by befriending their child on social media. While this is a great first step, a lot of communication will be missed through direct messages or private group chats. Constant communication with your child can assist in protecting them from aggressive, online language.