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What to Do if Your Child is Being Cyberbullied

What to Do if Your Child is Being Cyberbullied
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Cyberbullying can affect children of all ages and can be one of the hardest things that families face. Unlike in-person bullying, online bullying can happen at any time, not just in schools or when children are face-to-face. It can even happen to girls from families that are taking steps to protect their kids online. This is a very difficult issue for families to deal with, so today we’re breaking down what cyberbullying is and what you can do about it.

Because cyberbullying takes place online and can be hard to detect and address, it requires open communication with children, teachers, caregivers, and trusted adults.

37% of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 said they’ve been bullied online, with girls being  twice as likely to be bullied online than boys. As 95% of kids age 3 to 18 have access to the internet, these statistics shine a light on a problem many parents, caregivers, and children deal with every day.

Cyberbullying is defined as “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets…. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.”

In other words, cyberbullying is serious, and can have unintended harmful consequences for everyone involved.

What to do if your child is bullied online?

If you find out your child has been cyberbullied, it can be alarming and emotional for parents and caregivers. Even so, it’s best to avoid and discourage harmful retaliation or revenge-seeking behavior. Instead, take steps to diffuse the situation and learn more about what is happening. Sometimes teaching your child to ignore or walk away from their device may be enough to discourage the bully. Blocking the bully from accessing their account or sending messages can sometimes deter them as well.

Reassure your child they are loved and safe

This is definitely a time when you’ll want to let your child know that she is loved, and that the hurtful things being said won’t ever change that. Start from a place of love and understanding before seeking consequences or further investigation.

If you know the bully, try talking to their parents

Have an open conversation, privately with the other child’s parent or caregiver. Talking to the other parents may give insight into problems the children have and can be mediated with trusted adults.

If you don’t know the bully, find resources to address the behavior

Often children are bullied online through games, websites, and other apps. Sometimes they don’t even know the person doing the bullying. This is a common problem in the gaming industry, and girls are targeted at disproportionate rates. Because of that, many websites and apps have “safety centers,” or guidelines against cyberbullying.

If your child is being bullied by someone they or you don’t know via an online app or platform, review the site’s guidelines for safety to address and/or report the behavior. If the bullying is serious and you feel your child is being threatened, consider involving the local authorities.

Suggest they step away from their devices for a period of time

If your child  has been bullied online, suggest she step away from her devices. Reinforce that this isn’t a punishment but an invitation to do things that are fun like an outdoor hobby, coloring, or something else that brings her joy.

Empower girls to be “upstanders”

Nearly 1 in 4 children surveyed in a 2014 study, said they have said or done something hurtful to another person online. With so many children being bystanders or even aggressors, empowering others to stand up to bullies can make a big difference.

Child Mind Institute noted that our perceived idea of bullying–where there is a bully and a target–is not the entire picture. Often, children who bully play different roles at different times and it’s a much more complicated issue to address.

Because of this, children often know when others are being bullied, but they stand by and either don’t contribute or contribute at different times to the harmful behavior. Empowering girls to take action and become “upstanders,” as Child Mind Institute says, rather than bystanders, can help address bullying in a more systematic way.

Resources for parents and caregivers

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