Cyberbullying & How to Prevent It
In recent years, cyberbullying has become a rising issue - especially amongst teenagers. And while it isn’t a particularly new problem, it can significantly impact the person on the receiving end. It can lead to mental health issues, resulting in depression and even suicide in the most extreme cases. But we have seen it happen.
As we all know, being a teenager isn’t easy. Your body is changing - your hormones and mood fluctuations are through the roof. You don’t really know who you are or what direction you want your life to take. You want independence but yet, still rely on your parents. It poses a possibly frustrating and turbulent time. We’ve all been there. And thankfully, we’ve all gotten through it.
Yet, now you are on the flipside. You are the parent. You might throw your hands up in the air half the time, struggling and wanting desperately to understand.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do is talk to your child specifically about cyberbullying - do this when they get their first cellphone or are allowed access to the family computer. And hey, if these times have already come and gone, there is no better time than right now.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying or harassment through digital devices, such as a cell phone or computer. Cyberbullying is hard to detect. Not to mention, there is a fine line between invading your child’s privacy and protecting them.
And here’s the thing: There are always going to be bullies. It’s unfortunate but it’s the stone-cold truth. But, you can teach your children how to deal with them and how to rise above. Understanding the issue can go a long way.
First, let’s start from ground zero - prevention.
How Can You Prevent Online Bullying?
Talk with your child about the issue. Bring it to light. Let your child know you are on their team and that you care. Ask them if they have experienced it or know anyone that has. Don’t threaten to take away their devices - it’s like taking away their independence or they might see it this way. Instead, focus on listening - breach the topic then actively listen. Let them know if they ever need to talk, you’re there.
Find out where they hang out online. And join the club - Get Instagram or Facebook. Know how the technology works. Encourage your child to use privacy settings on their accounts. And make sure they know to sign out on unknown devices - such as at the library or school.
If you have younger children, knowing their passwords for their accounts is okay - and perhaps, necessary until they are older. Don’t try this for your teenagers - again, it’s a rough time and they might view it as a huge privacy invasion.
Teaching Safe Online Use
Technology isn’t going away anytime soon. If anything, it’s only going to grow - as do the trolls that linger online and feed off of their own negative commentary (and yes, “troll” is the official lingo for those people that live online and aim to upset others with their insults).
Teaching the next generation about safe online activity and use is essential to preventing online bullying. So, here are a few tips your teens, kids, and even you can take into account.
- Don’t respond to the bully. These people want to stir the pot. They want your attention. In fact, it’s what gives them the power they so desperately crave. Your attention also reinforces that what they are doing is okay. Ignore them or simply delete the comment. No response is the best response.
- Screenshot it. Saving these things might come in handy later on. If the person becomes violent or the harassment continues, it serves as evidence.
- Block the bully. Easy peasy, they are out your life - meaning they aren’t your problem anymore.
- Encourage your child to tell you, another parent, or a teacher if they receive comments or threats from another person. Don’t let them go it alone. As much as we try to deflect them, words can hurt and cause harm. A support system can help in leaps and bounds in this regard.
- Teach your children to think before they post. Who will see the post? Do they know that once they post it, it is forever on the internet? It’s best to be careful and cautious than regretful and upset.
- If you or your child see cyberbullying, report it. Or talk to the person that is being bullied. Bullying is unacceptable and often uncalled for. It can take a person down - in an already fragile time in their life. It’s not cool nor is it okay.
- Don’t talk to strangers - online or in person. If you don’t know them, don’t add them.
- Avoid venting your emotions online. Teach your child healthy ways to cope - such as going for a walk or switching activities.
- Treat others the way you want to be treated. Make sure your child doesn’t become the cyberbully. Check in with them. Make sure your online behaviour reflects how you want your child to behave. If mom and dad aren’t being nice online, how can you expect your child to be?
And Don’t Forget About Life Offline!
Limit your and your children’s online use. Participate and encourage participation in activities outside or around friends. The world is yours to discover!
Plus, you shouldn’t lose sense of your reality. In the grand scheme of things, that awful comment had nothing to do with you. They might pick apart your appearance. They might throw up a roll-of-the-eyes type comment at your post. They might call you names. But, guess what - it’s not a reflection of you. It’s them.
Chances are, the bully isn’t happy with their life. Don’t let them drag you down. It’s tough but entirely possible. The online world isn’t the only world. And while the 2 are becoming more and more entwined, it’s important to remember that there is an outside. Don’t lose touch with it. Connect in person whenever possible. We are all in this together and no one should have to do this life alone.
Talk to your child about cyberbullying today. Break down that barrier before it becomes a problem!