According to TeenSafe, nearly 34 percent of teenagers say they’ve been cyberbullied and 15 percent admit they’ve 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 he or she does online. Regardless of why you suspect your child is bullying someone, it is important to take action. Check out these steps to confronting and fixing the issue of cyberbullying.
1. Understand Why Cyberbullying Happens
Before confronting your child about your suspicions, it helps to understand a little about why cyberbullying happens. Sometimes, a child is just bored and trying to find some drama and excitement. Other times, he or she may
2. Consider the Situation on Your Own First
Avoid charging into your child’s room and demanding an explanation. You’ll want to go into the situation with a clear head, so the first thing you must do is tend to your own feelings. Work through your own emotions first so that you can better deal with your child’s. After you calm down from the initial shock, it is also necessary to 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. Meet with Your Child
When talking to your child about cyberbullying, it is important to do so in a calm, quiet and neutral space. Keep in mind that 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 as 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 is important to look for context 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
Of course, 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. A blanket 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 as well. 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. You might also consider requiring a bibliography.
When you’re sure that child cyberbullying will no longer be a problem in your household, you can begin to reintroduce privileges. Ensure you talk about clear expectations, including acceptable social media and time spent online.