What is the right course of action for the parent of a teen or pre teen who has been a victim of cyberbullying?
Depending on the survey data you look at, 30 – 50% of U.S. youths have been a victim of cyberbullying. Getting that number exactly right is less important than parents having a framework for dealing with an instance of cyberbullying and ensuring that your child, the victim, does not suffer from it repeatedly or endure long-term damage.
If your child tells you that he or she is the victim of cyberbullying, here’s what you can do:
Is it actually bullying? – Normal peer conflict can be difficult to deal with but it is not bullying. If your child is active online, you should have already have had a conversation about the line between conflict and bullying (if you haven’t, you know what to do). Confirm that the aggressor’s intent was to do harm, and that the incident was not just a disagreement. This can be done pretty easily by having your child show you the evidence.
Don’t go overboard responding (you or your child) – In some cases, your child responding directly to the bully is the right course of action, but not always. Avoid doing anything that escalates the conflict, and remember that in many cases not responding at all is the best way to make the issue go away.
Preserve the evidence – Keep a record of the bullying, either by saving a screen shot or printing it out. Bullies can go a long way to hiding the evidence if they suspect they were reported.
Block the bully – If your child is being bullied on a mainstream social network like Facebook or Twitter, chances are that there is an easy way to block the bully from being able to contact you. Use this as a teaching moment, and remind your child that she probably should not have been following this person in the first place. If your child’s social networking accounts are set to public, this is a fantastic time to talk about setting them to private as well.
Change cell phone number – If the bullying takes place via text message or messaging app, it is probably coming from someone who knows your child’s cell phone number. Most carriers will assign a new phone number for free it you go online to request the change, so that is a good option.
Report it to the network – Most social networks allow users to report abuse anonymously. If the bully is inflicting pain on more than one person, you’ll be doing the community a favor.
Report it to the school – If the bullying is happening at school, or has an impact on what happens at school, it’s a good idea to report the bullying to the school.
Change behavior – While we would never say that the cyberbullying victim is to blame, examine how your child ended up in that situation in the first place. Choosing a different set of friends or staying off some networks entirely (especially networks that allow anonymous users) might be a good idea.
In a way, cyberbullying is easier to deal with than traditional bullying, in that in most cases there is evidence that you can see and use to get help. Use that evidence to protect your child from future bullying incidents.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.