7 tips on protecting your child against cyberbullying

Owing to technology, you can’t expect bullying to be limited to mere street corners or schoolyards. If anything, ‘cyberbullying’ can take place anywhere – even at home- via text messages, email, social media websites and cellphone on a 24/7 basis with unlimited people involved in it. To be honest, the effects of cyberbullying can be truly devastating, with the person being bullied left to feel humiliated, abused, depressed and in the most extreme cases, suicidal.

The thing with cyberbullying is that it is quite unlike traditional bullying. This is because cyberbullying does not necessitate face-to-face contact or physical strength. The worst part about it is that it typically doesn’t remain limited to just a handful of witnesses at a time. Also, cyberbullies come in all shapes and sizes considering that anyone with a mobile phone/computer and internet connection can easily cyberbully someone else – that too without ever having to reveal their true identity. Many cyberbullies torment their victims all through the day and even follow their victim so that no place, including their home, remains safe. To make matters worse, just a few clicks can make the humiliation accessible by every single individual out there using the internet.

To protect your child against cyberbullying, given below are a few tips that you should definitely follow:

7 Don’t leave your child’s online world unattended

With all the countless electronic gadgets and social media sites available out there these days, kids have become far savvier these days than their parents. This deems it necessary for their parents to become digitally savvy as well. Yes, it may sound intimidating to you right now, but the fact of the matter is that protecting your children against cyberbullying demands for you to keep up with them digitally and stay involved in their online world – don’t leave it unattended.

The things you can do to start off in this regard is learn how to implement parental locks on your home computer and check with your cell-phone carrier about placing restrictions on cell phone usage during certain hours of the day so that your kids can’t access it 24/7. Also, in case your child has his own laptop, it is recommended for you to set rules pertaining to the timings during which it can be used so there is no chance for any late night ‘secret’ exchanges to take place. If you find yourself not being able to trust your child with this, it is best for you to just collect his laptop at a set time each evening.

Keep an eye on what your child does online

Yes, you also need to have a sense of what your child is going online and in texts. Help him learn as to what should be posted or said online. Teach your child not to share anything on the internet that could embarrass or hurt him. Apart from that, make it a point to go through the list of sites that your child likes. Find out his passwords and go through the devices he uses. To make things easier, discuss cyberbullying in great details with him and tell him that he can reach out for you in case something bad ever happens.

6 Suspect cyberbullying? Ask questions!

If you have suspicions of your child getting cyberbullied, it is highly recommended for you to talk to him straight away. To begin with, you need to tell your child that it is not his fault that he is being bullied, and bullying goes on to say a lot about the bully – not the victim. For instance, my friend’s daughter admitted to being bullied on Facebook at the beginning of the school year. After a bit of discussion, he realized that the problem was very serious and spoke to his daughter’s Assistant Principal and High School Guidance Department immediately. The school she goes to has a strict no-tolerance policy for instances of bullying, but even with that, most students refrain from speaking up due to fear of retaliation as well as humiliation amongst peers. This is the sort of thing you need to protect your child again and for this, you have to tell him that being bullied is not his fault.

The thing with bullying is that it typically stirs up several negative emotions and thoughts in a child. At the minimum, these thoughts can lead to extreme low self-esteem, thereby triggering personality and behavior issues in a kid. It is highly recommended for you to encourage your little one to write about the bullying incidents that he has experienced or take part in any other creative activities that may help him deal with all those negative emotions.

What do I do if he isn’t ready to talk to me?

There’s a good chance that your child may need a bit of time before he gathers the strength to discuss his feelings with you. In such a case, don’t force him to communicate with you. Instead, just encourage him to use a safe space where he can express all his feelings

5 Don’t blame your child – don’t let him blame himself

Your child is not at fault if someone is bullying him and this is something that you need to clear out with him. There is no reason for your child to feel ashamed of who he is or what he feels. It is the cyberbully who has a problem, not your child and you should make your child understand this.

To begin with, it is highly recommended for you to get your child to view cyberbullying from a completely different perspective. Get him to view the cyberbully as a frustrated, unhappy individual who just wants to gain control over other peoples’ feelings so he can get them to feel as bad as he does. To counter his ill-intentions, you should get your child to do everything possible to refrain from giving him that satisfaction. This way, your little one is going to start viewing the cyberbully as an oppressor and will stop letting him and his antics affect him and his thoughts.

Don’t let your kid beat himself up

That’s right. There’s no reason why you should let your kid make a cyberbullying incident worse by reading the message over and over or by dwelling on it. Instead, any cyberbullying messages on the internet should be deleted instantly so that your kid can focus on positive experiences. Tell your child that there’s a lot for him to be proud of who he is – he should not blame himself for anything. Get him to understand that whatever is going on is the result of the bully’s personal issues, not his. Also, if you can, try to use this moment in your child’s life to strengthen the bond you share with him.

4 Report the event

If your child is being bullied on a particular website, it is best for you to report the incident directly to the site so that the cyberbully can be stopped from accessing your child’s account. This particularly holds true in cases where the bully may have hacked your child’s password and there is no way for you or your child to access the account. Remember, just about all social media sites these days have put up a strong fight against cyberbullying and are equipped with all the links and tools that can help you and your kid fight against it.

In case someone sends threats of harm and/or inappropriate sexual messages to your kid, it is highly recommended for you to report them to the police right away. In a majority of cases, the actions taken by the cyberbully can be prosecuted by law, but this obviously depends on whether you report them to the police or not. To be honest, if you have any knowledge of your child’s personal information being posted online, you should immediately get in touch with your local law enforcement agency. This also holds true if you learn about your child receiving threats or inappropriate messages on the internet or through text messages.

Help your child become relentless

The one thing that you and your child need to bear in mind is the fact that cyberbullying is rarely ever limited to one or two incidents. It is typically going to victimize your child over and over again over a period of time. For this reason, you need to become as relentless as the cyberbully and continually report each and every incident to the point that the bully gives up and stops.

3 Don’t let your child isolate himself

In a majority of cases, victims of cyberbullying start withdrawing and isolating themselves. This is the sort of thing that you should stop from happening due to the devastating effects that it can have on your child. For this reason, it is highly recommended for you to spend a bit of extra time with your child and lavish him with all the attention possible so he doesn’t isolate himself. If possible, get him to take part in some of his favorite activities, but don’t force him to talk about the bullying he has experienced if you think he isn’t ready for it. With time, you should also keep him adequately involved in family, community and other group activities that can serve to decrease his pain and anguish. As long as your child knows that his family is there to support him, he is definitely going to start feeling better soon.

The thing with victims of cyberbullying is that they are in a fairly vulnerable state. For this reason, how you respond to your child and how you proceed with things is of utmost importance. The first task that you should take on in this regard is to listen to your child without judging, blaming or trying to jumping in and ‘solving’ the issue. As long as you acknowledge your child’s suffering and pain, he will continue to remain honest with you about all that has happened and is happening with him. You need to offer validation to your little one by affirming that what happened wasn’t right or fair. Remember, facing cyberbullying is a rather isolating experience and you shouldn’t do anything that may isolate him more.

Stand strong – help your child and his bullied friends

Whether it is your child who is being cyberbullied or one of his friends, it is necessary for you to tell them that remaining silent is NOT right at all. Stand tall with them and show support for all the victims! 

2 Establish rules about technology use for your family to follow

It is extremely important for you to set rules around your place pertaining to the utilization of cell phones, computers and other bits of technology. For instance, you should make your kids sit down with you and discuss the sites that they are allowed to visit and the things that they are permitted to do on the internet. On the whole, you need to show them how to stay safe against bullies in the virtual world.

Kids are just that – kids. They have no idea about the big bad world out there and you need to tell them about things like cyberbullying so they can protect themselves against it. As a parent, it is vital for you to help your kids stay smart about the things they can and should say or post on the internet. Tell them to refrain from posting things online that could embarrass or hurt themselves or others. Make it clear to them that once something is posted on the internet, they are going to lose control over who forwards it or uses it for hurtful purposes.

Clear things out with them

Encourage your children to think hard about the information and pictures they post on the internet and who they want to give access to it. Are they comfortable with complete strangers seeing their pictures and other personal information? Or do they only want to show it to their close friends? Apart from that, they should also consider how people who aren’t their friends could use or view it. Also, you should tell your kids to refrain from sharing their account passwords with friends considering that it can compromise their control over their online activities and identities. 

1 Deal with every incident of cyberbullying that your child may face

Cyberbullying is not something that can or should be shrugged off. Every incident of cyberbullying should hence be dealt with adequately. To begin with, it is highly recommended for you to refrain from ‘replying’ to the cyberbully no matter how hurt you may be. Instead, what you need to do is save and document any threats, sexually explicit pictures, harassing messages or threatening texts that he may send to you. Once done, report the evidence to the police and seek proper legal advice.

As a parent, you should also report any incidents of cyberbullying to your child’s cell phone company, ISP, and any websites that maybe used by the cyberbully to hurt and humiliate your child. Next, you should focus on blocking the cyberbully’s cell phone number or email address or just change your child’s phone number and/or email address – just make your child as inaccessible by the bully as possible. If you know the cyberbully, don’t be afraid to reach out to his parents or notify your child’s school if the bully studies there too. However, before taking such a step, make sure that you discuss things with your kid as he may want to resolve the matter privately.

Work on a family plan on how to deal with cyberbullying

Begin by talking to your kid about cyberbullying and discuss what it is all about. Next, encourage your child to come straight to you if he ever experiences cyberbullying and tell him that you will take all the necessary action required on his behalf. Finally, tell him about how you will document and report things in case he is ever cyberbullied and how you will make him inaccessible for the bully – just let your child know that you will always be there for him in case something bad happens.

More in Incredible