Have you ever talked with your kids about cyberbullying? Some parents don’t know how serious cyberbullying can be, so they don’t talk about it. When I speak with fathers about child safety, I encourage them to include this topic in their conversations.
What is it and why should you care?
For fathers who aren’t familiar with cyberbullying, it’s exactly what it sounds like—bullying through technology like cellphones and social media. There are usually three types of people involved:
- The Cyberbully - someone who instigates or joins in the bullying.
- The Victim – someone who is being bullied, often both online and offline.
- The Bystanders - those who stand by and watch the cyberbullying happen, but do nothing.
A child who is being cyberbullied can be humiliated in front of a worldwide audience and there is really no way to control how quickly and how far that information spreads. You may think it’s easy for a child to just turn off the computer or cell phone and forget these things are happening, but it’s not that easy. From completing school assignments, managing friendships, and consuming endless amounts of entertainment, children’s whole lives are online. They can’t simply walk away from it.
What you can do
If your child is a victim of cyberbullying:
- Save the evidence by taking screenshots or printing out any messages. If there is ever an investigation, you’ll need proof of what was posted.
- Talk to the school and work together on a plan to address the bullying if it involves classmates. They may already have specific rules or policies regarding cyberbullying.
- Block cyberbullies or even set up new accounts. Make sure your kids only share the new accounts with friends they trust.
To help prevent kids from cyberbullying others:
- Establish expectations for online behavior. Make it clear that cyberbullying is unacceptable.
- Set consequences for their actions.
- Be respectful to others online. Children learn from the adults around them, so lead by example.
The truth is most kids are not bullies or victims; they are bystanders. These kids may be too afraid to speak up because they don’t want to be targeted next or called a tattletale. However, information from bystanders is critical if teachers and other trusted adults are to take action. Bystanders can also influence their friends to make it stop.
Help your child stand up to cyberbullying by encouraging them to report to a trusted adult, stand up for the victim when they feel it’s safe to do so, and just be a good friend. For example, they can post positive comments on the victim’s social media page or even just sit with the victim at lunch so they know they’re not alone.
The bottom line: talk to your kids about cyberbullying. You’d be surprised how far just a simple conversation will go. Visit NetSmartz Workshop for more tips about talking to kids about cyberbullying.
Callahan Walsh, National Outreach and Marketing Coordinator, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
The NRFC December 2014 Webinar focused on “How can fathers address bullying issues with their children?” and provides additional information and resources for parents and programs.