As part of their coverage of Safer Internet Day 2015, parental resource website Quibly was kind enough to request an interview with us to discuss what we are seeing on the front lines of teen cyberbullying.
In the course of our doing audits and monitoring of teens, we see a lot of cyberbullying – some of it mild and some of it quite severe. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the children of clients who come to us are far more likely to be cyberbullying victims than perpetrators. That could be for one of two reasons. Perhaps most cyberbullying is being done by a small number of people with larger numbers of victims, so there are more victims than bullies out there. More likely, if a parent is concerned enough to come to us for help in digital monitoring, that parent either suspects that there is a problem or she is sufficiently proactive that she is already raising a good digital citizen. Either way, we see a lot of it.
You can see the full interview here:
Safer Internet Day: How to protect children from online threats
One answer that we gave deserves more discussion – what should a parent/teen reaction be if the cyberbully is a friend.
You might think this doesn’t happen, but it does. Research shows that most teens view some level of cyberbullying as normal, and choose to put up it rather than be distanced from their friends online.
As a parent, you may have to work hard to overcome this mindset. On social media and smartphones there are options, from unfollowing or blocking the bully to changing your teen’s cell phone number. Your teen may be reluctant to go that far. Here are our recommendations:
Ask your teen how she feels about it – Don’t take the situation at face value. If your teen views the bullying as harmless, or the digital equivalent of a schoolyard snowball fight, you can let it go but be sure to monitor the situation to make sure it doesn’t escalate.
Ask the bully to stop – If your teen feels bad, the simplest choice is often the best one. It may even be that the bully doesn’t know that she is doing harm.
If your teen feels bad, you have to act – Blocking or unfollowing a bully that is part of your teen’s group of friends is a tough step, but it can be reversed later. And it will send a strong message that cyberbullying will not be tolerated.
What if it’s anonymous – If the cyberbullying is happening on an anonymous, or semi-anonymous network such as Ask.fm or Yik Yak, your teen may suspect that the cyberbully is a friend, but not know for sure. If the bully falls into this category, and your teens is being made to feel bad by the actions, your two options are to report the bully to the network operator and hope that they take action, or to have your teen delete his account on the network entirely. The latter could be a drastic but necessary step.
While we don’t have proof of this, it is likely that most serious cyberbullying starts out as something mild, and escalates over time. By getting involved early, a parent can insulate against the chances of a harmful escalation ever happening.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.
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