Cyberbullying can be dangerous. Here are 9 steps that you can take to help your child.

Being mocked online can be particularly hurtful to a child, who may feel as if there is no escape from the ridicule. How can you tell if your child is being cyberbullied?

The behavioral warning signs are similar to those of face to face bullying, however, they occur around time spent online. A change in your child’s habits when they are online, such as spending much less time on their phone or depressed, angry or disruptive moods may be a clue as well.

They may ask you to block emails or phone numbers or shut down their online accounts after being bullied. You can also search social media to find out if accounts are being opened under their name, which is another form of bullying.

If you are certain that your child is a victim, it’s time for you to get involved to protect your child. 

Protecting Your Child from Cyberbullying

  1. Start by talking.

    While getting all the details sounds like a good idea, your child most likely will not feel comfortable and your questions may feel like an interrogation. Instead, encourage them to discuss their feelings by talking about your own online experiences, weaving in the good and the bad. Or, recruit one of their peers or someone they look up to for this conversation. Discuss how to handle problems on social media such as being unfriended, heated discussions or being flamed. It will help them to know that online social problems happen to everyone.
  2. Teach your child online etiquette.

    One of the best ways to prevent cyberbullying is to make sure that kids know what it is and what it looks like. Your child should understand what is and isn’t appropriate to say and do online, and that social media has rules too. Show them that it is far easier to cross the line into bullying when you are anonymous and behind a computer than when you are face to face. Make sure they understand that they, too, must respect others online. It is possible that the bullying started with one of their actions, however, be careful not to lay the blame for being bullied on them.
  3. Don’t stalk their social media.

    While it may seem like the best course of action, going behind your child’s back will erode their trust in you. Instead, continue the discussion by getting them to open up about their online activities, like discussing which social media they like. You can draw a response from comments like, “You should share that photo” or “Let’s see if your friend is online now.” Getting them to engage about their online activities will help you discover what they are reluctant to discuss and what makes them anxious.
  4. Limit online access.

    If you see clear behavioral changes, like anxiety or depression, around the time your child is online, you may want to limit their access. Set clear rules and guidelines on tech usage, including what to do when problems or uncomfortable situations arise. If your child’s mood does not improve, you may want to consider shutting down their accounts altogether.
  5. Recruit online friends.

    As we all know, Facebook arguments can get heated but it’s good to have someone in your corner. Does your child have peers online who “have his back” should they get into an argument? Do they have friends he looks up to online that engage with them? If not, social media may not be the best medium for their social engagement.
  6. Protect your child offline.

    It’s important to know if your child engages with the bully offline. Is this one of their classmates? Is it someone they met at an extracurricular activity? If so, your child may also be experiencing bullying in the real world and you can address that through the proper authorities (school administration, team captain, etc.).
  7. Don’t engage the bully or his or her family online.

    Making additional comments on social media will only fan the flames of these incidents, and a discussion via email can be misconstrued. If you know who is doing the bullying, you can reach out to his or her parents if you have a relationship with them to discuss calmly but be careful before taking this step. Many parents are sensitive about such accusations and meeting face to face without a neutral third party may only make things worse.
  8. Report and document misconduct.

    Rule violations can be reported to the social medium, web host or online system. Threats of physical harm, however, should be reported to the police. Be sure to keep screen shots of all comments and images, especially those that are inappropriate, threatening or profane.
  9. Get your child actively engaged offline.

    If a bullied child is alone and friendless, there is potential for them to experience depression and harmful behaviors. Help them to foster a hobby that they like and can share with others, such martial arts, photography or hiking. Finding positive friendships will provide them the support they need to promote healthy self-esteem. Cyber bullying is a real problem because it’s easy for kids to hide it from parents. If you feel your child is experience it, these steps can help protect your child so that he can develop a positive self-image and avoid the harm that comes from bullying.

Need more help with cyberbullying? Download our Cyberbullying Guidebook for Parents.

About Gina Badalaty

Gina Badalaty is a lifestyle blogger for moms raising kids with special needs. She is passionate about living a nontoxic life, inclusion for kids with disabilities and technology to help kids thrive.

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