We’re living more and more of our lives online. This is especially true of Gen Z and those who come after them. These kids never knew a world without nearly pervasive internet access and ubiquitous social media. Yes, new platforms emerge all the time, but the concept has existed their entire lives.
As kids and teens continue to live out more and more of their lives online from ever younger ages, one big problem has emerged: cyberbullying. Bullying is no longer confined to the schoolyard and the alley. Kids today can experience bullying and harassment online, known as cyberbullying. And this new form of bullying can have serious consequences. Kids’ digital lives are inherently tied up in social networks, and “funny” embarrassing clips have the propensity to go viral.
Cyberbullying is a serious problem. If you suspect your kids are being subjected to it, here are some strategies to help.
Know the signs
The first step to helping your child is to know the signs of cyberbullying. The most obvious sign is if you see hostile posts about your child on social media (whether by being connected to your child or by having access to their accounts).
If your child suddenly changes his or her online behaviours – either increasing or decreasing time spent in online social engagement – consider that a red flag. You may also notice negative emotions right after going online or texting, or avoidance of in-person social engagements that were previously enjoyable.
The bottom line: any change in behaviour or mood that seems to coincide with online activity is a red flag that your child is being cyberbullied.
Talk to them
It’s important to give your child an opportunity to open up to you about any bullying that has occurred. Gently broach the subject with your child. Ask if they have been having any negative experiences online, or if he or she has felt mistreated by peers recently. Make sure it’s completely clear that you support him or her.
You may want to save some evidence of the cyberbullying, especially if you plan to follow up with others. It’s easiest to do this now, while you’re already talking with your child about the incident.
Depending on the age of your child and the scope of the harassment, you may choose to suspend your child’s social media account for a time. Your teen may not enjoy or appreciate this action, but sometimes it’s the best one. If your child is deeply hurt by the bullying incident or is becoming obsessive about monitoring the situation, it may be best to unplug.
Approach authority figures
If the cyberbullying situation is school-related, you may choose to notify teachers or administrators. This way they can monitor your child’s emotional well-being while at school. They can also keep an eye out for any real-world bullying related to the digital incident.
Contacting the cyber bully’s parents may also be an appropriate course of action. They may be unaware of their child’s actions and be willing and able to help curtail the bad behaviour.
Cyberbullying is a real problem, and the consequences can even be deadly. If you suspect your child is a victim, you can help find healing and resolution using the strategies discussed above.