Bullying among kids is not a new problem. Every generation has had to deal with some form of cruelty at school and among peers, but today’s generation has a new avenue for bullying interactions: the internet.
In the past, a bullied child could escape its effects by simply leaving the playground or schoolyard, but now, bullying follows kids home digitally. From a laptop to their smartphone, kids can literally take cyberbullying with them wherever their devices are. An accurate cyberbullying definition could be, "the exchange of cruel or harmful words from one individual to another, through any online platform, such as texting or social media." In today’s digitally dominated world, it can feel impossible to know how to stop cyberbullying as a parent.
It comes as no surprise that so many children are experiencing serious emotional and psychological harm from cyberbullying. The good news for parents is that there are concrete steps based on cyberbullying facts that you can take to help your kids navigate and mitigate this difficult part of growing up.
What can you do to reduce cyberbullying and help your child deal with its effects? We have five suggestions for cyberbullying awareness and prevention on your kids’ devices.
You know your kids. Because of your closeness to them, you can probably often sense their emotions, so trust your instincts when you think something may be wrong. Perhaps they seem less enthusiastic about activities they typically enjoy or are suddenly quieter than usual. You may notice signs of lack of sleep, or that they’re complaining of more frequent headaches or stomach issues. Try to notice a pattern of changes in mood and demeanor after they’ve been using their digital devices.
If your child is in high school or college and using their devices independently, don’t assume that they can handle cyberbullying on their own. It can be helpful to have a conversation with any member of your family who has access to a digital device. No one is immune from online cruelty.
If you suspect that your child is a victim of online harassment, reach out to them and ask them to share what may be happening. Take care to do so as gently and warmly as possible. Often kids feel that their parents may disapprove of how often they use digital devices and become defensive, so try to be mindful of avoiding an accusatory tone to encourage disclosure and open dialogue.
It can be hard for kids to admit that they’re being bullied, especially when it’s so easy to hide it by closing a chat box or turning off a smartphone. Confiding in anyone about bullying, especially parents, is often scorned by kids’ peers and puts them in a vulnerable position. As a parent, you can help create openness between you and your child by ensuring that your conversations are safe and protected from outside exposure.
If your child admits to being cyberbullied, there are ways you can act to deal with the problem without tracking down the bullies or removing devices from your home. If your child will share details of the bullying incidents, encourage them to show you the harmful messages or comments that have been directed at them.
Once you’ve identified the source of the cyberbullying, do not forget to document it! Screenshots of the offensive messages can serve as key evidence later when confronting the issue more directly.
In response to this pervasive problem, many apps have reporting mechanisms to remove offensive content and even suspend or ban offenders. You can also “block” the cyberbully from viewing and interacting with your child’s social media page. If cyberbullying is happening at school, learn your school’s reporting requirements and use its resources to safely and appropriately confront the problem.
Sometimes it can be challenging to have an honest dialogue with your child about cyberbullying. If you feel the need to monitor the devices in your household more thoroughly, consider using Guardian, Kosciusko Connect’s network security tool. With Guardian, you can view the apps and websites your kids are accessing, set time limits, and block apps entirely from their devices, without completely compromising their privacy. Learn more about Guardian.
Practice empathy and understanding, without minimizing the very real pain your child may be experiencing. Gently remind them that these problems pass with time, and so does the pain. It may be helpful to post supportive comments on their social media pages and encourage other positive friends, peers, and family members to do the same. This can serve to drown out negativity and even drive bullies away.
The internet is also a source of great connectivity that can bring people together to learn and share, so don’t forget its countless benefits in the midst of confronting online bullying.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the effects of cyberbullying are one of the most significant problems our younger generations are facing. At Kosciusko Connect, we strive to provide awareness and resources to our fiber internet customers and local community. We want to help you learn how to prevent cyberbullying in your own home network so that you and your family can have the safest online experience possible.
Kosciusko Connect is a subsidiary of Kosciusko REMC, your local electric cooperative. Learn more about the cooperatives’ role in cybersecurity awareness.