Your children are growing up in a vastly different world from the one you remember–and that includes the ways in which they’re bullied. These days, kids are less likely to shove one another into lockers and steal lunch money than they are to take their bullying online, where everyone can participate as they roast each other alive. Cyber-bullying has become an increasing problem over the past several years, so much so that children have reacted violently, even committed suicide, as a result of cyber-bullying.
What Is Cyber-bullying?
Cyber-bullying is the use of technology, from computers and tablets to cell phones, to bully another child. It takes a variety of forms: text message that go to a single child, social media shout-outs when entire groups take part in the bullying process, and even websites that are specifically designed to target a given child or group of children. Cyber-bullying can appear in a number of different ways, including:
- Nasty text messages
- Inappropriate videos or pictures that are posted online without the victim’s consent
- Creating a fake persona online or imitating another individual with the intent to hurt
In some cases, cyber-bullying is very easy to spot. It’s simple to tell when someone is harassing your child by sending nasty emails, texts, or personal messages, for example. More subtle are forms of bullying that you might not have the chance to personally observe, including subtle digs, comments that your child is intended to read the “wrong way” but which appear totally innocent, and pictures and videos the parent is never able to see.
Stamping Out Cyber-Bullying
Today’s children grow up with a strong online presence. Chances are, your child has their own email address, social media accounts, and cell phone. If you want to prevent cyber-bullying, there are several steps you should take immediately.
- Stay aware of what your child is doing online. Friend, follow, and cheerfully stalk their online accounts. Let them know that you aren’t restricting them, just protecting them from the potential consequences of inappropriate behavior from both them and their friends.
- Develop strong family rules involving technology use. Insist that your child unplug from their devices before heading off to bed, when you won’t be able to monitor their behavior. For younger teens and tweens, it might be beneficial to insist that technology use take place in a common area, where they can be observed.
- Pay attention to your child. If your child is withdrawn, hiding their technology use, or showing other symptoms of bullying, check up on their social accounts and text messages to be sure there isn’t anything going on.
- Encourage open communication. Let your child know that they can always come to you any time something isn’t right. If they’re unwilling to talk to you, designate another trusted adult to help handle difficult situations.
If Your Child Is Bullied
If your child was being bullied at school, at church, or as part of a team, you wouldn’t put up with it. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to put up with your child being bullied online, either. If your child has been a victim of cyber-bullying, there are several steps you can take.
- Identify the culprit. Often, they will use their own names or phone numbers. Other times, your child will know exactly who the other individual is.
- Go to the school. Many schools are now developing policies concerning cyber-bullying behavior–even if it doesn’t take place on school grounds.
- Contact parents. If the school doesn’t have a policy in place, you may need to go to the parents themselves in order to get the bullying to stop.
- Change cell phone numbers and temporarily delete social media accounts. Block offenders from those social accounts before reinstating. These may seem like drastic steps, but cyber-bullying is no less serious than physical bullying, and your child needs your protection!
Keeping your child safe in an increasingly online-based society can feel impossible. Thankfully, by instituting rules and monitoring online behavior, you can often stamp out bullying before it becomes a more serious issue. Looking for more information on a more nurturing school environment for your child? Contact us today.