In 2019, Instagram announced it was rolling out an anti-bullying initiative for users of the popular photo sharing app. The new feature, called Restrict, would act as a buffer between victims of cyberbullying and those who torment them. The move was in response to the excessive amount of cyberbullying that takes place on the social media platform, which is very popular among younger users.
Instagram is not the only app with a bullying problem: Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have each made headlines in the past for issues with harassment. Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to help their teens deal with online bullies across all social media platforms.
Start the Conversation
Teens are especially reluctant to talk to their parents about bullying and harassment that happens online due to embarrassment or fear their parents will restrict access to their devices.
To help your kids to feel more comfortable talking about their online life, Michael Jolley, general manager for
Conversations, Jolley says, should center around exchanging information and avoid a list of “don’ts.” Teens may be more receptive to hearing a range of information about acceptable online behavior — both for them and from them — instead of a list of negatives.
Create a Safe Space
Admitting there’s a problem is the first step to getting your child help, but so often kids will try and handle bullies or their own, or else hope that if they ignore them, they will go away. Jolley says that this is a mistake, and tells parents to encourage their kids to come to them (or to speak with another trusted adult) if they are being cyberbullied.
If you’re worried your child isn’t telling you about problems they’re facing online, or if you have other concerns about what your teen is doing behind their phone, Jolley suggests using a monitoring app that will allow you to filter your child’s device and stay on top of their screen time.
What Parents Can Do
When your child admits they’re being bullied online, there are steps that can remedy the situation. Depending on the frequency and severity, you may decide to contact the bully’s parents, the school or even the police in order to put an end to harassment. In many cases, the first two options will be enough to stop online bullying, but when you fear for your child’s physical or emotional wellbeing, contacting the police is a viable option.
Calling the Cops
Cybersecurity expert Jamie Cambell explains to Parentology when parents are taking their child’s cyberbullying case to the authorities, they should bring information such as pictures and chat logs to use as records of how long and how severe the abuse is. “Even if the person deletes the message, more often than not, companies retain chat logs in their databases,” Cambell says, some of which will be accessible by subpoena should the issue go to court.
Online Bullying and IRL Consequences
Experts agree cyberbullying has the potential for catastrophic effects on teens, ranging from depression to suicide. If you suspect your child is being bullied online, take immediate action.
What Parents Need to Know About Cyberbullying: Sources–
Michael Jolley, General Manager of
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health