Cyberbullying has become such a major issue that platforms like Instagram are releasing new features to help increase positive interactions and reduce bullying. With recent statistics showing that only 20-30% of students tell an adult when they’re being bullied, it is more important than ever for parents to talk with their kids and teach them how to handle cyberbullying.
So, we asked 5 experts to share their best tips for teaching students how to handle cyberbullying.
1. Think of positive activities that fill time that would have been spent online
Dr. Ericka Goodwin, Board-certified Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist
When teaching bullying prevention, the first thing is to encourage children to tell their parents or adults that they are being cyberbullied. It is also important for parents to have access to their children’s electronic devices, email, social media, chats, and other online platforms. On top of having access, parents need to monitor these devices and accounts because children do not need unmonitored internet usage. The next step is to report the cyberbullying to the platforms they are using. You can report misuse or harassment to social media entities and websites. Also, the behavior needs to be reported to appropriate adults, other parents, school, etc.
My next recommendation may seem straightforward, but it is something I rarely seen done intuitively. The child needs to stop logging into the platform they are being cyberbullied on. If the child needs to look at emails, or other internet areas where they are cyberbullied, to do school tasks or tasks related to extracurricular activities, the child’s parent or guardian can get the necessary information from that account without the child logging in. When a child is cyberbullied on social media but continues to log into that platform, they get retraumatized. In these situations, it is critical to prevent the child from isolating themselves. The family needs to rally by thinking of positive activities that fill time that would have been spent online. In the end, love and common sense can be some of the most powerful tools.
2. Learn to recognize what cyberbullying looks like
Nikola Djordjevic MD, Family Doctor
First, kids need to be educated to recognize what cyberbullying looks like. Sometimes they are under the impression that they deserve to be harassed or made fun of because of some of their flaws. Oftentimes they refuse to report any type of bullying because they fear they’ll lose friends. However, it is important to educate children to recognize this behavior and respond to it.
What can kids do if they are being cyberbullied:
1. Talk to their parents or school officials
One of the first steps is for kids to report cyberbullying. In order for the problem to be solved, adults have to know about it. Only then will they know how to take certain measures without hurting their kid’s feelings.
2. Block the bully
Luckily, most of the social media networks have a developed system of reporting suspicious behavior. It usually takes just a few steps to report the bully after which their account will be investigated. Afterward, you may easily block them and thereby hide the personal content of your child.
3. Reduce time online
Sometimes simply limiting the time that kids spend online can help reduce cyberbullying. First of all, kids will be less involved in things happening online, so there won’t be as many chances of being bullied easily. Second, kids will get to make friends in person so they won’t fear losing friends if they cease contact with a bully.
3. Surround yourself with individuals who encourage feelings of self confidence
Monica Moore MD, Pediatrician
As a board certified pediatrician with over 13 years experience caring for children from birth to age 21, I have seen first hand the immediate and long lasting negative effects that bullying and cyberbullying have on my patients. These include, but are not limited to suicide, self mutilation, loss of self esteem, isolation, anxiety, depression, strained relationships, poor academic performance, and school avoidance. Victims of bullying must first stop themselves from believing any of the cruel comments, threats, or false posts from the bully; they must focus on positive energy and self love. Daily affirmations can help shift their mindset to one in which they embrace their uniqueness and accept themselves for the amazing person they really are. Victims of bullying should surround themselves with individuals who help encourage feelings of self confidence. Instead of spending additional time on social media trying to validate themselves (or retaliating on the bully), victims should enroll in a new hobby, start an activity, or join a group that will uplift and encourage them. If a child is experiencing cyberbullying, they should not hide it but instead they should share the incidents and find support in their parents, teachers, counselors, resource officers, social media administrators, and local police
They may also seek support from groups such StopBullying, and Beyond Bullying.To avoid further escalating the incident, they should not personally confront the bully, but allow the proper officials to handle the situation.
In sharing their stories, it is important to have open dialog with parents and older siblings. Victims of bullying may want to share their story with others who have been bullied to help them overcome their ordeal. One strategy that may be helpful for the victim is to not make themselves too vulnerable on social media. Parents should have parental controls on social media outlets, keep the home computer in an open and visible area of the home, and limit the use of all electronics. It is also important to keep a record of all bullying communication so that it can be reported to the local authorities. To prevent repeated acts of cyberbullying, the victim should stop any communication with the bully, and change their social media handles.
4. Parents should consider working with an attorney to learn about navigating the legal system to handle cyberbullying
David Reischer, Esq., Attorney & CEO of LegalAdvice.com
New York, where I practice as an attorney has a very strict anti-bullying statute. Bullying in New York is defined as threats, intimidation, or abuse that unreasonably and substantially interferes with the victim’s educational performance, opportunities, or mental, physical, or emotional health. Bullying can apply even if it occurs off of school property, so long as it would create a foreseeable risk that the bullying acts might reach school property. Anybody that is being cyberbullied needs to immediately contact an attorney to learn how anti-bullying laws can stop the abuse.
Anti-bullying laws that aim to protect kids against abuse, from their peers in school and online, vary from state to state. The use of a mobile phone or web technology that is used to harass or intimidate is called cyber-bullying. The Department of Education recommends that the strongest laws include explicit descriptions of prohibited behaviors and spell out clear reporting practices with specific consequences. There is currently no federal law that specifically addresses bullying but state laws generally focus on explicit listing of the specific behaviors that constitute bullying. These behaviors can include teasing, threats, intimidation, stalking, harassment, physical violence, theft, and public humiliation. States laws sometimes identify certain characteristics or traits of students who are often targeted for bullying. Some states provide guidance to school staff regarding how to address bullying issues. A qualified attorney should be able to advise a parent about navigating the legal system to stop cyberbullying.
5. If you see something worrying tell an adult
Carole Lieberman MD, Media Psychiatrist & Bestselling Author
If you are being cyberbullied, the first and most effective strategy is to post a reply like: ’This space is for kindness only’ and then block the bully. Also, tell your parents about it – who the bully is and how you feel about what they wrote. If this continues to make you feel sad, tell your parents that you would like to talk to a psychotherapist about it. Some kids feel so upset about these mean words that it gets in the way of enjoying life. If the cyberbully takes bullying offline, and is mean to you at school, tell your teacher.
If you see someone else being cyberbullied, give them this advice. Then keep an eye on them to make sure they’re okay. If you see something worrying, like seeing them cry or self-harm, then tell an adult – the teacher, a school counselor, your parents, or their parents.
When parents talk with their kids frequently and stay involved in their life (both offline and online) their kids will be better equipped to handle a cyberbullying situation. Teaching students the right steps to take when they encounter bullying online is the best way to help them through a situation. Learning what cyberbullying looks like, how to report bullying behavior on their favorite platforms, when to reach out to a trusted adult, and when to take a break from technology can change everything for a student who is being cyberbullied.
How do you teach your kids to handle cyberbullying? Let us know in the comments below.