It can be extremely upsetting to learn that your child/teenager is the victim of cyberbullying. As a parent, there are many actions you can take to minimize or stop cyberbullying. First, try not to emotionally overreact, keeping in mind that the well-being of your child or teen is the important focus in this situation. Take the time to find out exactly what is going on by engaging in a thoughtful, non-judgmental conversation with your child/teen about the problem. Remember that your child or teen may play multiple roles in cyberbullying in addition to being a victim.
Don’t minimize what has happened and don’t make excuses for the bully. Your child/teen needs to feel you are both on the same page in your goal to stop the cyberbullying.
If you haven’t been monitoring your child/teen’s computer/social media usage, now is the time to start. Print or take screenshots of cyberbullying content directed at your child/teen. Start keeping written records of all incidents and any background information about the incidents so you can show that cyberbullying is taking place. Resist the impulse to contact the parents of a cyberbully. They may react very defensively to such an accusation.
Contact the provider organization of the cyberbullying content to report the inappropriate usage of that service by the bully, even if you don’t know the identity of the cyberbully. The Terms of Service of legitimate content providers don’t permit this type of usage. This is a link to contact information for most websites and apps popular with young people about abuse. Also contact your child/teen’s school about the cyberbullying. Many schools have strict bullying policies and educational programs directed at stopping bullying behavior.
Social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow your child/teen to set up privacy controls. Help your child/teen utilize these privacy controls to block the cyberbully’s access to your child/teen’s account. Continue to talk regularly and non-judgmentally with your child/teen about any further incidents that occur. Continue to document those incidents and report them to the school and content provider. If cyberbullying involves physical violence threats, sexually graphic photos/material, child pornography and/or stalking or hate crimes, contact your local police. Part Three of this blog series will suggest ways to monitor and limit your child/teen’s social media/computer usage to prevent and block cyberbullying.