What to Do if Your Child Is Participating in Cyberbullying
Nothing can prepare you to hear that your child has been cyberbullying others. You were probably having a typical day until you got the call. The school or a student’s parent wants to talk to you about what your kid posted online. Your heart sinks — you may even go into some denial. Now you must decide how to proceed.
How do you even begin to address this issue with your child? Most parents are more prepared to help their kids as victims of bullying, not the other way around. Yet, your child needs your love and support just as much on this side of things. Use these tips to help you work through the emotions and repercussions of your child’s choices.
1. Keep Your Emotions in Check
Dealing with your kid participating in cyberbullying will likely bring up some strong feelings. You may experience denial, anger and disappointment, just to name a few. If you were bullied as a child, that might complicate the situation. However, it’s essential to control your emotions — you won’t be able to get to the bottom of things and help your kid if your temper rises.
2. Have a Heart to Heart
As soon as you can calm yourself down, have a chat with your child. Depending on the situation and how the cyberbullying came to light, this conversation may not be a one-on-one. You may need to have the first conversation with a guidance counselor or principal at your kid’s school.
No matter who the talk involves, you must make it clear you’re all prepared to work together to help correct the behavior. You want what’s best for everyone involved and to find out the reason behind the choice to cyberbully.
Watch your language and avoid calling them a bully. Very likely, they’re a good kid who made some bad choices. Discovering their motivation will help you come up with an action plan. However, ensure your child knows having a reason doesn’t make cyberbullying a good choice — there are always other alternatives.
3. Work With a Team
Whether your child’s school discovered the cyberbullying activity or you did, it’s a good idea to get them involved and on the alert. Having more people on your kid’s team can only help them.
If your child’s motives were school-based — like desiring popularity, peer pressure or retaliation from being bullied — the administration might have ideas for consequences or support on campus. They may be able to withdraw privileges or schedule time for your kid to talk regularly with the school psychologist or guidance counselor.
In addition, it may help to have your child see a therapist to talk about their decision to cyberbully and how to address the motive and change the behavior.
4. Restrict Internet and Device Use
At the minimum, you’ll want to restrict their internet use. Removing these privileges for younger kids is easier since they don’t typically need the internet for their homework. They’re also home more often, so you can observe their behavior more easily.
Teens are much more complex since they often need devices and internet access to keep up with schoolwork. In these instances, you’ll have to monitor their time or install software to scan for cyberbullying behavior and flag you if it picks up anything.
You can also contact your cell phone provider to limit their phone capabilities temporarily. Your carrier can turn off texting and data to make cyberbullying activity much more difficult.
5. Find Appropriate Consequences
In addition, you may want to add in other consequences to support the underlying motive behind their cyberbullying behaviors. For example, if your child joined in cyberbullying to fit in with a particular group, you should remove them from that influence as much as possible. You could take them out of a club or ground them so they can only leave home for school.
Finding new ways to occupy your kid’s attention helps create worthwhile substitutes for the bad choices they were making. Help them find a new hobby or pick up an old one. Look for something they’re passionate about and encourage them to spend more time on it. You can also set aside more family time to improve those bonds — order a pizza and get the whole family together on the living room floor to play board games.
6. Encourage Your Child to Make Amends
Just like when your child was small and pushed someone on the playground, they need to make it right. You should find a way they can make amends to the person or people they hurt with their cyberbullying behavior.
First, they should immediately delete any hurtful public or private posts or comments. Afterward, they should offer some form of apology to the person they hurt. If that person isn’t ready to face their bully, you should have your child write a note. Read it before delivery to ensure its appropriateness.
Cyberbullying Has Lasting Consequences
As uncomfortable as it is to deal with your kid participating in cyberbullying, you must address it now before the problem worsens. Kids who continue to bully throughout childhood tend towards similar behavior as adults. Protect your child’s future by helping them change their behavior in the present.
Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She strives to live a happy and healthy life with her family by her side.