CyberBullying: A Word for Parents

cyberbullying guide for parents

There was a time when bullying was something we all had to endure in school, on the bus, and hanging out with friends. It was always unpleasant. The next generation, our children, have an even worse type of bullying to deal with… and it’s so much more common than what we suffered!

About CyberBullying

Remember how frustrating it was in school when somebody was upset and reacted passive aggressively, usually by spreading a rumor? How the victim of a bully (maybe it was you, maybe it was one of your friends) would feel singled out, how hard it was to go to school and deal with the drama.

Your children deal with passive aggressive bullying all the time… because the internet brings out the passive aggressive in almost every young person. From shy kids to the straight forward, outspoken kid… cyberbullying can happen by accident. But as you remember about being the victim of a bully… the wounds never heal.

What’s even worse about cyberbullying is this. When a direct conflict among friends is resolved, you can forget and forgive the hurtful things that were said. However, you can never erase them from the internet.

With that in mind, it’s important to be very sensitive when talking about cyberbullying with your child. And yes, if your kid is using the internet than you do need to talk about this!

Teaching Your Child How To Not Be a CyberBully

As mentioned before, the internet brings out certain behaviors in young folk. Of course, your child knows not to pick on somebody in person, but do they know not to rant and rave on social media when what they say could unintentionally hurt somebody else?  You may discover they are participating in cyberbullying, even if the catalyst for it is succumbing to peer pressure and following the crowd.

Watch for passive aggressive behaviors, and teach your children to face their problems (directly) rather than taking their frustrations out on others.

If your child is 13 or younger, you should have their social media log in info, and don’t share the password with your child. This way, you can easily check in on them and you can also protect your child from being the victim of a “hacker” cyberbully by preventing anyone else from finding out how to log into their account.

Cyberbullying is even more common with older teenagers (age 14-18), especially when they have a smartphone that allows them to post on impulse. Teach them to think before they post, and make sure they understand how important it is to never post anything that could hurt somebody else… or could come back to haunt them.

Bullying and Addiction

Addiction in children has many root causes, including trauma.  It’s not always the case but when studying people who suffer with an addiction, more of those people have some level trauma in their past history or current situation than those who don’t.  Bullying at school or even at home, as well as cyberbullying through social media, can most certainly cause trauma and greatly hinder the emotional well being of a child.  The earlier it happens, the more damage can be done.  Regardless of age, kids are developing mentally and emotional well into their early twenties so a parent should not take lightly the effects a bully can have at any age.

Whether the bullying is physical, verbal or social, a turn to addiction or to any destructive behavior can happen at any time and can be a sign of something going on that the parent is not aware of.  If you notice that something is troubling your child, gently seek answers from them in order to seek solutions.  There is help from those where the major cause of addiction has been a result of bullying.  Even if you only have a vague idea of what may be wrong, seek help from a school counsellor or a professional within your community.

Cyberstalking and Online Harassment

Although we should not take lightly the seemingly innocent mild but still hurtful cyberbullying that goes on, parents should be aware of cyber trolling, cyberstalking, and online harassment that takes bullying to a new level.  These represent insidious manifestations of digital aggression, where individuals exploit online platforms to intimidate, monitor, or torment others.

Victims endure psychological distress, facing constant invasion of privacy and fear for their safety. Such forms of online abuse take cyberbullying to new level of severity and underscore the urgent need for robust digital policies and parental vigilance to protect against darker facets of the internet that cause persistent harm and can be very dangerous.  Parents should document evidence, report issues to social media platforms, notify the school, and involving law enforcement authorities.

What To Do If Your Child is the Victim of a CyberBully

Be the parent that a child can feel comfortable talking to if they are being harassed or directly attacked online. Be kind and understanding, and be sensitive to their needs. The rest is really up to you, as a parent.

If the harassment is severe enough, you can involve other authorities (the school or the police.) As you may remember, this could backfire on your child so it shouldn’t be your first choice. One needs to evaluate closely determine the immediate and long term effects of the bullying your child is enduring.  If the bullying has started over personal drama, discuss with your child whether or not they should confront the person in real life and come to a resolution. Do not “feed the trolls” or respond to cyberbullying online… bring it back to real world interaction.

To protect your child from becoming the victim of a cyberbully, encourage them to make friends with other children who are kind and respectful. Teach your children that friends who are always “surrounded by drama” can be dangerous… you never know when you’ll get sucked into it!

What can a child or teen do to empower themselves against a cyber bully? Have them read our article on CyberBullying: for Kids and Teens.

Legal Steps to Stop Persistent Bullying

When a bully simply will not respond to advanced by parents and teachers to stop bullying or cyberbullying, there are legal steps once can take.  Additionally, parents can explore their rights under anti-discrimination laws that protect against bullying based on certain characteristics such as race, gender, disability, or religion.

In situations where bullying crosses the line into harassment or discrimination, parents can file complaints with relevant authorities such as the school administration, local education agencies, or even the Office for Civil Rights. These entities can investigate the claims and take appropriate action to address the discriminatory behavior, ensuring a safer and more inclusive environment for all students.

Legal measures should not be the first course of action, but rather a last resort when other interventions have been exhausted. Communication with school administrators, teachers, and counselors are crucial for resolving bullying incidents. However, becoming aware of the legal options available equips parents with the knowledge and tools necessary to protect their children’s rights and well-being effectively, even when the first common signs that your child might be getting bullied become know.

By taking proactive legal steps, parents can reinforce the message that bullying is unacceptable and that they will take all necessary actions to ensure their children’s safety. It is through a combination of preventive measures, supportive environments, and legal interventions that we can collectively work towards eradicating bullying and fostering a culture of respect, empathy, and kindness in our communities.

Bullying in School and on the Playground

While cyberbullying can be much more invasive by allowing bullies to virtually enter your home and harass your child online, we must not forget about traditional bullying in school hallways, the lunchroom, on the playground.

Whether ‘on’ or offline, parents who know the signs of bullying in their child’s behavior can be proactive no matter what form it takes.

Red flags to look for and what to do with aid your bullied child (Infographic)

This infographic was created by Kids Car Donations, a local car donation

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