How To Talk to Your Kids About Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is not very different from the ill reputed bullying that happens in the school yard. It has the same psychological and social implication that leaves the formative minds of children insecure. What makes cyberbullying a little more intense than bullying is it not limited to the school yard.

According to a 2015 survey(link is external) 34.4% of students between the ages of 11 and 15 have been cyberbullied. This includes children who have been threatened online to be hurt, had rumors spread about them, or had mean and hurtful comments or pictures of them online.

This onslaught of hateful messages follows children everywhere they go. Left with no respite, many children avoid interaction with adults and peers, show a drop in grades, display anger, depression, self harm and in extreme cases resort to suicide. Children don’t like to talk about such incidents. They are often embarrassed to admit they are cyberbullied or they don’t know that what is happening to them is a type of cyberbullying. They also feel no one will understand what they are going through and will try to fight it alone.

Parents, educators and caregivers need to recognize the signs of cyberbullying and do whatever it takes to help the victims. Bombarding them with questions like “Are you being bullied?” will only drive them further away. Instead find out what their school day feels like. Ask “Who did you have lunch with?” “What are the kids in school talking about these days?” Most children will respond with some answer that will give you an insight about what’s going on in school.

Here are few ways parents can talk to their children about cyberbullying:

1. Discuss.

Ask your child about what he/she knows about the recent rise in cyberbullying. Children don’t like to come up and say they are victims. It is better to talk about an incident reported in the news and see your child’s view on it.

2. Assure

Be there for them. Assure your child that you will be there for him/her if such a thing were to happen to them even if they are somewhat responsible for it. Let them know that you will keep all conversations between the two of you private and will not intervene unless it’s absolutely necessary.

3. Cyber rules

Every home should have certain guidelines and rules for the usage of technology. Besides the amount of time children spend online, teach them online etiquette. It’s as simple as expecting them to behave online the way they would in real life. This means they should not

  • use another person’s cell phone or computer without his/her permission
  • circulate embarrassing photographs or video about another person
  • forward hurtful or embarrassing messages or media
  • use anonymous or unrecognizable screen names to communicate
  • use foul or abusive language that could embarrass or hurt others

4. Explain

Treat your children like adults when you are explaining the rules to them. Let them know why they are enforced in the first place. The use of technology is a privilege and must be handled responsibly. Make them understand that breaking rules has consequences that are beyond your control. There are laws that protect victims of cybercrime.

5. Safety first

Talk to them about how important cyber safety is. Keep their computers, laptops and cell phones protected with a comprehensive security suite tailored to protect children from online threats. Encourage your children to block and ignore people who send hateful messages.

6. Empathy

Let your child know that you understand that there are two sides to each story and you will do your best to support your child. If your child knows someone who is being bullied encourage your child to convince the victim to report the incident to the school office.

Remind your child that there is nothing to be ashamed of when he/she is a victim of cyberbullying. It’s the cyberbullies who should be ashamed of their  actions. They are unhappy people who want to have control over your child’s feelings so that he/she feels as badly as they do. There is always a solution to every problem in life. So instead of dwelling on it, encourage your child to engage on activities that excite them like sports, hobbies, hanging out with positive thinking friends. And if there is a need seek help from parents, teachers, and trusted adults, they have got your back.

Want to know more about cyberbullying? Read our blog What is Cyberbullying?

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