Here are 10 tips for parents to help their kids cope with the grave issue of cyber bullying...
Bullying used to be pretty obvious. It was observable – by parents, teachers, and peers. And when it was observable, it was often easier to deal with. Children could be separated during school and non-school time. They could be monitored easily.
Even in the workplace, people affected by cyber bullying were able to find ways to keep themselves apart from their bullies.
Enter social media. Parents and teachers are no longer aware of what conversations are going on between the children and others, especially as they hit the “tween” years and beyond. And when they don’t know and cannot address the issues, bad things happen. There are many examples of cyber bullying cases that have ended in suicide.
We absolutely have to get a handle on cyber bullying, and one of the ways to get a handle on it is to find actionable ways to help our children when they are victims. Here are 10 tips for parents to help their kids.
1. Recognize the Warning Signs and Monitor Social Media Accounts
Especially with “tweens,” monitoring social media accounts will be particularly important. It is at the middle school level, when children are experiencing emotional extremes, that bullying can be devastating.
And studies show that cyber bullying really ramps up during the middle school years. It’s important to not only monitor for kids being bullied but also for kids who are engaging in bullying.
2. You are Not a “Prophet in Your Own Land”
A parent is not the best person to counsel his/her child on bullying, primarily because, in their kids’ eyes, they don’t know much. Better to find a counsellor or teacher at school with whom the kid has a trusting relationship, or barring that, an outside professional.
3. Channel Your Kid into Activities in Which S/he Can Excel
Children who have a strong self-image tend to be less impacted by bullying. If you can find a talent or skill in which your kid excels, direct their focus on to that thing, and make sure there are activities with other kids who have the same talents/skills.
This gives the kid a base of connection and a feeling of belonging to an emotionally “safe” group.
4. Get the Facts Straight
If your child tells you s/he is being bullied, then get the fact together. Ask to see the messages, emails, or conversations.
Often, kids may be involved in what is flaming cyber bullying – an activity in which vulgar and inappropriate bullying conversations are taking place while other kids “tune in.”
If you child is participating, the solution is easy. De-friend the perpetrators and/or disable the platform altogether. Parental controls are wonderful things.
5. Help Your Child Find Online Resources for Support
There is a long list of resources that will provide cyber bullying tips for students. Find some good ones and give those links to your kid.
6. Stay Calm
The more you freak out about the bullying issue, the more your child will see it as a huge, looming one. Remaining calm and engaging in some problem-solving with your child is a far better approach. How can your child avoid cyber connections with the bullies?
7. When Bullying Becomes Severe
On the other hand, if the bullying becomes severe, threatening or extremely vulgar or obscene, you will have to take steps. Do so calmly.
Gather evidence (screenshots of posts, etc.), take them to school authorities and find out what the cyber bullying laws are. Some cyber bullying is considered assault and/or hate speech, and there are laws against that.
8. Lobby your School for Bullying Prevention Programs
All schools should have these. But they are at all different levels of effectiveness. Find out what your school is doing; find resources that your school may not be using; become involved in promotion of such programs through the Parent-Teacher Association.
9. Bullied Become Bullies
It’s true. Sometimes kids adopt the behaviors of those who bully them. It makes them feel better. Watch for signs, and make sure that you are firm about your disapproval, even if it means restrictions.
10. Help Your Child Come Up with Some Slogans
One of the things about bullies is that, if they don’t get the response they want, they ultimately stop. In the cyber-bullying world, your child can respond with “not funny,” “pretty lame,” or some similar response before immediately signing off. Never engage a bully.
These 10 tips should give you a start. Fortunately, today there are boat loads of resources, including parent support groups. Seek them out.