According to StopBullying.gov, approximately 21% of teenagers say they’ve been bullied, and Ditch the Label states 15% of those have been the cyberbully. Do you suspect your child is bullying someone online? Perhaps he or she has multiple social networking accounts or has become secretive about what they do online. Regardless of why you suspect your child is bullying someone, it’s important to take action. Check out these steps to confront the issue of cyberbullying.
1. Understand Why Cyberbullying Happens
Before confronting your child about your suspicions, it helps to understand a little about why bullying happens. Sometimes, a child is just bored and trying to find some drama and excitement. Other times, they may
2. Consider the Situation on Your Own First
Go into the situation with a clear head and decide what outcome you’d like to see from confronting the situation. Naturally, you want your child to stop bullying, but how will you achieve your goal? Do you want him or her to apologize? To lose privileges? Clearly define your goals to better determine how to approach the situation. You may also need to put together a “team” to help you. In most cases, this will be you and any other parental figure in your child’s life. However, depending on the severity of the situation, you may find you need to talk with teachers, coaches or even the police.
3. Talk with Your Child
Find a calm, quiet and neutral space in which to discuss the situation. Keep in mind your child is likely scared of being in trouble and may not open up well at first, especially if the police or school officials are involved. It may be tempting to shout or automatically hand down a punishment, but it’s important to listen to your child without placing blame or interrupting first.
During the conversation, you should look for several pieces of information:
- What were the reasons for the bullying to take place?
- When did it start and how long has it been going on?
- Who is being bullied and are there any other bullies?
- How has the victim been bullied and is there evidence?
While asking these questions, you probably won’t get very many direct answers, so it’s important to look for contextual clues. Who does your child spend the most time with? Who has he or she mentioned not liking? Are there outside issues your child is going through, such as the divorce of parents or school stress?
4. Talk About Consequences
Communication is the first and most important step, but consequences are necessary, as well. The depth of the consequences will likely depend on the age of your child. Either way, you’ll probably want to take away internet privileges until your child can prove his or her ability to be responsible.
An overall block of the internet is easier for younger children who may not need the internet for schoolwork as often. Once your child is in middle school or high school, removing all access to the internet becomes more complicated. In these cases, consider family monitoring software on their phones, tablets and laptops, as well as supervising their time online. You can often turn off data and texting on their cell phones as well.
Unfortunately, for many children, restricting access isn’t enough to truly change behavior. For this reason, some parents choose to have their child write a report about cyberbullying. If you choose this route, ask him or her to provide statistics about how cyberbullying hurts people, how people can combat it, and the importance of accepting people who are different than you.
When you’re sure cyberbullying will no longer be a problem your child is engaging in, you can begin to reintroduce privileges. Ensure you talk about clear expectations, including acceptable social media and time spent online.
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