Help kids prevent, report, and recover from dangerous online harassment and cyberbullying.
It used to be that bullies only cornered kids in physical spaces: the playground, the bus stop, the locker room. But in the modern era of social media, cyberbullies seem to be lurking everywhere. Even the safest of places, like a child’s own bedroom, can be penetrated if there’s Wi-Fi and a computer, tablet or phone. Cyberbullies may use texts, emails and social media to spread rumors, reveal secrets, post embarrassing photos and more. Moms and dads trying to navigate this complex information-age issue may feel helpless against the cruelty, but the good news is that a wealth of new resources is available to help parents and kids alike.
One of the best things you can do to prevent cyberbullying is to be involved in your children’s online activity. Monitor the sites your children visit, connect with them on social media and learn their passwords. Have an open discussion about the threats of cyberbullying, and teach your children specific tactics for staying safe online, like always logging out of accounts, never allowing friends to access their passwords, and using high-privacy settings when available. Teach your children to be respectful to others online, too. Explain why they should never post unkind comments, reveal others’ personal information or share inappropriate photos.
If you learn that your child or another child is being cyberbullied, you have a responsibility to report this information. Stopbullying.gov suggests keeping records of the abuse, reporting the issue to the social media site in question and contacting school officials. Contact law enforcement if there are threats of violence, hate crimes, stalking, breaches of privacy or other illegal matters.
If your child has been cyberbullied, you may want to work with school administrators and child psychologists to help your family recover. Teri Mahaney, founder of the nonprofit Heal Bullying, offers free downloads to help children begin a journey of healing through improved self-esteem and self-empowerment. “The goal is to help kids heal if they’ve been bullied,” says Dr. Mahaney. She suggests that parents actively listen to kids and remain neutral and nonjudgmental through the process. To help kids boost self-esteem, Dr. Mahaney recommends that parents offer specific praise each day. “Point out exactly what you like about your kids,” she says, explaining that this will help them see those positive qualities in themselves, too.