What are preventative measures parents can take regarding cyber bullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs via digital devices like cell phones, computers and tablets. This form of bullying can happen through text messages, chatrooms, apps, on social media, forums or through gaming where people can view, participate in or share content. Cyberbullying can include the sending, posting or sharing of negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.
Here are some common signs that a child may be facing cyberbullying.
- There are noticeable fluctuations in the use of their devices, such as computers, smartphones or tablets.
- A child exhibits emotional responses outside of the norm to what is happening on their device.
- A child hides their screen or device when others are near and avoids talking about what they are doing on their device.
- Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
- A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
- A child becomes withdrawn, depressed or loses interest in people and activities.
If you notice any of the above changes in your child, they may be involved in cyberbullying. You may notice a change in the child’s mood or behavior. Try to determine if these changes happen around a child’s use of their digital devices. Ask questions to learn what may be happening, how it started and who is involved. You know your child better than anyone else, so asking questions to gauge their response can certainly help get to the bottom of the issue.
If you suspect cyberbullying, keep a record of what is happening and where it happens. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible. Most laws and policies note that bullying is a repeated behavior, so keeping records will always help if it needs to be reported. Report bullying when possible, and this is where your records will be necessary. Social media platforms and schools have clear policies on bullying and how to properly report it. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it to the school. You can also contact apps or social media platforms to report offensive content and have it removed. If bullying goes beyond offensive messages or content, such as physical threats, or if a potential crime or illegal behavior is occurring, report it to the police.
Make sure to always provide positive support. Peers, mentors and trusted adults can sometimes intervene to positively influence a situation where cyberbullying may be taking place. If needed, seek professional support for those involved, such as speaking with a guidance counselor or mental health professional.
To set preventable measures against cyberbullying, set clear expectations about device use and behavior. Talk to your child about the harmful effects of cyberbullying, such as posting hateful speech or comments, sexting, and sharing certain types of content or photos (including potential legal issues). Identify which apps are appropriate for your child’s use and which are not, and be clear about what content can be viewed or shared. Establish time limits that a child can spend online or on their phone. Lastly, kids always look to their parents for social cues and models of appropriate behavior, so lead by example.
For more information on cyberbullying and preventing cyberbullying, visit StopBullying.gov.