If a child is being bullied at school, parents address it with the school.
With online it’s harder as it happens virtually and can be done while hiding behind a false identity.
If parents suspect their child is being cyberbullied, there are some practical steps to take.
- Take it seriously and act. Do not let the problem fester and know that cyberbullying is as simple as an email or text, it doesn’t have to come from a gang of kids or have to build up over time to qualify. It can be a simple, hurtful act.
- If you actually fear for your child’s safety, don’t hesitate to call the police. Take a proactive stance, have a conversation about cyberbullying, what it is and what it looks like.
- It’s up to you to take an active interest in your child’s online activities, whether by being friends with them on social media or by just asking them about what they’re doing. Because “it takes a village” to raise a child, we need to keep an eye out for other children too. In many ways, stamping out cyberbullying is up to all of us, collectively as parents.
- Know the warning signs. Keep an eye out on moods and any worrying signals that something is wrong. Then have an open communication line already in place so that your child can talk to you without feeling pressured for information. But also resist the urge to interrogate. Sometimes a family friend or relative is in a better spot to be the go-to-person, so don’t feel hurt if your child talks to others before he or she talks to you.
- If you spot a case of cyberbullying, be sure to document the bullying. Get screen captures of the text, image, or site, and save the emails. As part of documenting the evidence, don’t be afraid to seek professional help through a teacher or school councillor as there are many external organisations who will be able to help you.
- Websites such as social networks give you the ability to report incorrect behaviour. Get to know the tools available and don’t hesitate to use them. Facebook features a “report this post, page or group” function, Twitter uses a support centre where you can report something inappropriate and YouTube allows you to “flag” video content.
Cyberbullying doesn’t always have to hit the headlines to hurt and have lasting effects. It can take more subtle forms that are still tremendously painful for a child. Parents need to be vigilant and nip it in the bud.