How to Handle Cyberbullying (15 Experts Share Tips for Your Family)
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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.
SmartSocial.com Founder Josh Ochs shares cyberbullying tips on the Teddi Tea Pod
Teddi Mellencamp, of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, asks SmartSocial.com Founder Josh Ochs to share some cyberbullying tips on the Teddi Ted Pod after online “trolls” cyberbullied her and her children.
15 Experts Share Cyberbullying Tips For Your Family
The SmartSocial.com Team asked 15 experts to share their best tips for teaching students how to handle cyberbullying.
1. Place filters on apps and websites, and always say something if you see a friend being cyberbullied
Elise Guthmann, Program Director, Evolve Ojai Residential Treatment Centers for Teens
First, it’s the parents’ job to place filters on the internet to block certain social media pages that have been known to promote cyberbullying. Many teenagers have ended up committing suicide after being cyberbullied on social media sites like AskFM or Kik.
But if cyberbullying still occurs, here’s what to do:
- First, block the person and report the harassment online. Most social media sites have a way to report abuse—and bullying definitely counts as abuse.
- Experts also recommend not responding to the texts, emails or other messages.
- Instead, take screenshots of them and save them in a file. The more evidence you gather, the better it will be. Authority figures—or the police—will find this proof useful when they figure out how to discipline the abuser.
Teens: If a friend is being cyberbullied, tell your parents. Your parents may want to then call your friend’s parents to ensure their son or daughter is safe. Remember that even if your friend gets mad at you temporarily for sharing this information with their parents, you may be ultimately saving your friend’s life.
2. Report, block, tell
Margarita Edwards, Executive Director, Nevada Child Seekers
First, parents need to sit down with their child, and establish ground rules to follow when online, explain to the child in an age-appropriate manner what to expect while online. Usually, rules include; never posting personal information, suggestive images, or cruel comments.
Second, when cyberbullying happens establish a “life line” with the child by encouraging them to share the incident with parents. Remember to report-block-tell. When a child fails to seek help the abuser gains power over the child’s mental state. Parents are the ones who decide if the threat needs the attention of law enforcement or the school police, etc. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is unavoidable if you are online but a child being empowered with the support of their parents helps them navigate these online attacks.
Third, parents must activate parental controls on the devices to ensure the child is interacting appropriately and not being a cyberbully themselves.
3. Screenshot everything and then remove the toxic comments/messages
Michael Lowe, CEO, Car Passionate
The first course of action is to gather any evidence in case you need it later down the line. This needs to be done as soon as it happens, as more apps and social media are allowing people to withdraw/delete their comments.
A screenshot is a standard and wholly acceptable way to do it. With your phone or computer it’s simple to press the PrintScreen button or use the snipping tool. Ask your child to delete the bullying comment or message as it can be a harmful reminder and kids sometimes can’t help going back and picking at the scab so to speak.
There’s two options from here:
- Speak to the parents of the bully directly to warn them their child has been bullying, advising you have evidence which you will not hesitate to use should it happen again.
- Take the evidence straight to the school. One, they should have more experience with this type of thing, and, two, this will allow them to prevent it from happening to other children. It may already be known to the school and this will be information for them to do something about it.
4. Teach your kids to be heroes
Jessica Stasi, Owner, Snapology
We suggest parents talk with their children to identify what bullying looks like:
- Making fun of someone
- Saying mean things
- Being violent toward someone
- Not including someone
- Laughing at someone
- Not stepping in to help someone (being a compliant bystander)
As a BYSTANDER, you can remove the word Bully from the dynamic by how you get involved. Most people think they want to be the bystander because that means they aren’t the Bully or the Victim. But the bystander means you stand back, watch, and do nothing. In 7 out of 10 bully situations, there’s a bystander watching it happen. BUT when a bystander steps in, more than half of bully situations stop completely just simply by saying something small or stepping forward to stop the bully from continuing.
We should all aim to be the HERO, not the bystander. What we want to do is empower the people who are just walking by or viewing the cyberbullying. Teach these people that… “Evil wins when good people do nothing.” Most often bystanders act as if the bullying isn’t happening. They completely ignore the situation. Bystanders are bigger in numbers. It’s only one bully. Bystanders can stand up and make a difference. We know it is difficult to change behavior and it can be challenging to stop a bully…but just because it can be a challenge doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Who is up for the challenge?
We can all help put an end to this by empowering the bystander and by being a positive influence on the bully. Remember, only one person needs to take the lead and that one person doesn’t have to do anything dramatic….just a small comment or gesture to stop the bully.
5. Build trust with your kids and help them make the rules of screen time use
Dr. Vikram Tarugu, CEO, Detox of South Florida
If a kid is being cyber-bullied, it’s safe to say that the parents wouldn’t know about it. More than half of my patients at our rehab clinic have experienced cyber-bullying and their parents didn’t know until it was too late. As parents, it is our job to teach our kids what to do if ever this ever happens to them.
What we can do as parents is to build trust with our children. Set time restrictions, explain your reasons for them, and explain the rules for online security and internet use. Allow your children to help make the rules and they will be more likely to follow them. By letting them participate, they will know what these rules are for. Building trust will encourage them to be open about cyber-bullying if ever they become victims of this.
6. Save evidence, block the bully, and stay positive
Shari Smith, Founder, Shari-sells
Sadly, cyberbullying is very common nowadays because of the use of social media. It is an easy way of bullying because you can do it anonymously and not get caught. Kids do this because of peer pressure, because they feel more powerful by hurting others or just because they are bored.
Here are three things to do when you experience cyberbullying:
- Save the evidence. Screenshot or take a picture of the message or conversation so you can have proof that it happened. You can use it when you take legal actions, or if you just talk directly to the people involved.
- Block the person immediately. People doing these kinds of things are not worth your time and effort. Ignoring the conversation is effective revenge against bullies because they will see that they did not succeed with their bad intentions.
- Stay positive. It is the best thing you can give yourself when experiencing bullying. Remember that they can never be the awesome person you are and that they are doing that because they have big problems that they can’t solve. Just pray for them, stay strong, and be positive at all times.
7. Set screen time limits on smartphones
Theresa Bertuzzi, Chief Program Development Officer/Co-Owner & Co-Founder, Tiny Hoppers
Kids can also set time limits for specific applications. This allows them to have access to platforms but in smaller quantities. This is an excellent technique for active consumption rather than passive use, allowing children to understand that there is more to life than just the online landscape. That those who harm and attack others online will never win, and their inappropriate online behavior should never be replicated. Being a victim of cyberbullying is emotionally and physically overwhelming for anyone to deal with, especially children. Kids need to understand that it is okay to speak up and seek available resources.
8. Take a hiatus from social media
Kortney Peagram, Owner/President, Bulldog Solution Inc. & Peagram Consulting
Tips to Overcome Cyberbullying:
- Delete and Don’t Repeat: Most kids tend to reread the painful post or harassing message over and over. It is as though they are training their brain to believe the nonsense that was written about them. So when you are being targeted by a bully, report the incident with documentation, then delete and don’t repeat.
- Take a 24-72-hour Hiatus from Social Media: Take some time off and reflect on what happened, but also give yourself some space to rebuild your self-worth. By eliminating that virtual audience, it gives you time to think about what you want and who you want to be on social media. You can always start over or even unplug for longer. You have the power to choose!
- Be Socially Bold: Say something, if you feel safe and able to speak up. Don’t retaliate with anger or painful comments. Find your voice and make sure you tell the bully that you won’t tolerate hate.
“I don’t think this is funny. I am unfollowing you.” Then do it and be done.
“I would not say something like that to you, so I am deleting your comment, reporting and blocking you. I don’t want negative people in my space.” Stand up for yourself without fueling more conflict.
9. Learn the social media apps your kids are on
Lesley Reynolds, Co-Founder, Harley Street Skin Clinic
As a parent, it’s really terrifying to know that there are a lot of dangers lurking online. I have always taken it upon myself to prepare my child for the demons of the internet. What I did to effectively do this is to learn how different social media apps and platforms work by signing up for and learning Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This way, I can go through my child’s profile to monitor and check if there are any cyber-bullying activities. Before doing this, I make sure to ask my kids if I can go through their profile. In the event they don’t agree, I make them understand why it is important for me to know what’s going in their social media accounts.
10. Befriend victims of bullying and teach kids to support each other
Mike Bran, Founder & CEO, ThrillAppeal
Parents and teachers should teach kids different ways to respond to cyberbullying, whether it is happening with themselves or with their friends.
• If cyberbullying occurs, the first thing your kids should do is to ignore or report the act or posts, as bullies are attention seekers, if they don’t get the attention they might stop doing this. Still, the victim should immediately report the bullying act to any adult and secure himself.
• You should encourage all the victims of cyberbullying to stand for themselves and each other so that no one becomes the victim, and the bully loses the power to tease anyone.
• There are different sites on social media where you can differently report the abusing act. Teach your child how he can save himself by reporting harassment.
• Ask your kids if they hesitate to tell you about cyberbullying then hire a coach or teacher for them so that they may not suffer for a longer time.
• Additionally, you should teach kids to be-friend the victims of cyberbullying and help them in every possible way.
• Self-confidence is vital in order to fight bullying, including cyberbullying.
11. 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 have 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 the time that would have been spent online. In the end, love and common sense can be some of the most powerful tools.
12. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
13. Surround yourself with individuals who encourage feelings of self-confidence
Monica Moore MD, Pediatrician
As a board-certified pediatrician with over 13 years of 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 an open dialog with parents and older siblings. Victims of bullying may want to share their stories 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
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