What to Do If Your Child Has Been a Victim of Cyberbullying Online
In the age of technology and social media, cyberbullying is a very prominent, serious problem. As a parent, it can leave you feeling helpless and frustrated. There are a number of steps that you can take, however, if you find your child has been bullied online.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is when a child or teen has been targeted or harassed via an online social media application or directly through texts or emails by another child or teen. In some cases, the abuse can happen on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat.
“Cyberbullying uses technology to deliberately and repeatedly behave in a manner intended to harass, threaten, humiliate or harm others. Research suggests that between 20 – 30% of students will experience cyberbullying and between 10 – 20% of students will be a cyberbully at some point.”
Even if your child doesn’t have a cell phone or social media account, he or she can still experience bullying online. Children are using computers and the Internet at an early age these days. It’s important for parents to understand the risks and take proper action.
Cyberbullying Should Always Be Taken Seriously
When you find out your child has been a victim of cyberbullying, the first thing you should do is reassure your child that you’re there for them and you will help them through this. The organization StopCyberbullying.org recommends that you ask two critical questions to start:
- Is your child at risk of physical harm or assault?
- How are they handling the attacks emotionally?
They go on to say, “It is crucial that you are there to provide the necessary support and love. Make them feel secure. Let the school know so the guidance counselor can keep an eye out for in-school bullying and for how your child is handling things. You may want to notify your pediatrician, family counselor, or clergy for support if things progress.“
Let Your Child Know You Want to Help
Many children avoid telling their parents they have been bullied, or come across mature content online because they’re afraid they will get in trouble. Let your child know that he or she can always come to you about anything they experience online. This is especially critical for younger children. Reassure your child you will value his or her honesty and take the necessary actions to help resolve the issue.
Steps You Can Take to Stop the Online Bully
If the cyberbullying incident has only happened once or just begun, there are immediate steps you can take to put a stop to the harassing behavior, according to Common Sense Media. First, have your child sign off the computer and physically walk away from the computer or mobile device. Encourage them not to respond. Most cyberbullies simply want to get a reaction.
The next thing your child should do is block the bully. Blocking them will help to prevent further contact through most social media platforms and via text messages.
Make sure that you save the messages on the device, as well as print copies of the messages. If this were to go to law enforcement, printed messages can’t be used as evidence. But the actual computer data can. It will go a long way to provide evidence to teachers or other parents, though.
Proactively Protecting Your Child’s Online Data
Going forward the first thing you want to do is change all passwords. Make sure the passwords are not something personal or easy for someone to guess. This will prevent unauthorized access to your child’s accounts and prevent others from logging in.
While this may seem like it’s not a big deal, this is one way online bullies harass their victims. They can log into their victim’s social media or email accounts and post or send disparaging messages. To the general public, it could appear that the victim is actually the bully in these cases. This is one reason it’s very important to protect passwords.
Enable Two-Step Verification Wherever Possible
While changing your child’s passwords will provide one form of protection, you can elevate the security with a simple method called two-step verification. Two-step verification is an extra layer of identity verification. The user is prompted to not only enter the account’s login credentials but also an additional piece of information. For example, a street name or pet’s name. In addition to protecting your child’s accounts, use two-step verification on any of your own accounts with sensitive data, like banking or credit card information.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
The last and most important step is to keep the lines of communication open. Your child will use computers and the Internet for the rest of his or her life so it’s important to help him or her have a positive experience.
You don’t want to constantly ask them if they’re still being bullied. But you should be open enough in your conversations that your child will feel comfortable sharing with you.
Also, watch for signs of anxiety and depression and indications of online abuse such as moodiness, withdrawing from activities, stomach aches or changes in their daily routine.
When you know the signs to watch out for and the most common bullying tactics, you can take necessary action to protect your child online. The Internet and online media will be a big part of your child’s life so it’s important for them to learn best practices from an early age.
How do you protect your children online? Let us know in the comments below.
Maile Proctor is a professional blogger and content editor. She writes articles on fitness and health, lifestyle and family, how-to, advice and more. She has written for Active.com, Life Hack, Volunteer Match, Family Share and more. Maile earned her Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University. Find her on Twitter.