Just as the use of technology itself has evolved, so has the ability to bully. Children and teenagers are spending more time online that ever with 92% of kids on the internet daily, and nearly a quarter report being logged in “constantly”. Not only are these kids sharing more and more of the intimate details of their lives with peers and strangers, but they are exposing themselves to a higher risk of being cyberbullied. Cyberbullying can happen anywhere there is online social interaction, which now-a-days is everywhere.
Bullying can be disregarded as a “natural” phase or “rite of passage” for adolescence. However, bullying can have life-long impacts – physical, mental, and emotional damage. The psychological harm from being bullied could turn into long-term mental health issues or suicidal thoughts or actions. As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to keep your kids safe. Learn how to ensure your child’s time-online – and on social media – stays bully-free.
1) Define it: To prevent cyberbullying from occurring your child must first know what it is. Cyberbullying is “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Some of the common places cyberbullying occurs is through text messaging or messaging apps, social media platforms and their direct messaging features, online forums, email, and online gaming communities.
Give them real life examples to help them navigate the many forms of cyberbullying, from jokes to passive aggressive posts to cyberstalking. Invite your child to learn what you’re learning about cyberbullying and visit websites together:
2) Set healthy tech boundaries as early as possible: Setting restrictions and permissions on your child's tech usage at a young age helps them develop a self-directed relationship with their devices and makes it easier for children to disengage as they age. The rate of cyberbullying is tied to more time spent online, so it is important to find a balance with technology. Creating a family technology plan which includes the purpose, boundaries, and consequences is a great place to start the discussion. Some of the common practices include:
- Designating tech-free time;
- Limiting device time;
- Determining what apps and website are and are not appropriate;
- Keep technology out of the bedroom; and
- Let your child know that you will be monitoring their tech use.
3) Provide an open channel of communication: Encourage your son or daughter to come to you with questions about his or her online relationships. Creating an open dialogue will allow you to help guide them as issues arise and gives your teen the space to discuss what behaviors they can accept and display online.
4) Protect your password and setup privacy controls: Investigate what steps can be taken to keep your content private and unsolicited users from contacting your child. Teach them to safeguard their passwords and other private information from prying eyes, but even their best friends. If someone already knows it, urge them to change it now!
Using content and privacy restrictions, allows you to block or limit specific apps and features on your child’s devices. Instructions on how to restrict settings on your teen’s phone, tablet, social media, gaming console, and computer for explicit content, purchases, downloads, and privacy settings can be found here.
5) Monitor for behavior changes: Resist the urge to scroll through their phone, but more importantly learn the common signs of bullying and keep an eye out for them in your teenager's behavior. Some of the warning signs that a child may be involved in cyberbullying are:
- Hiding their screen and avoiding discussion on what they are doing on their devices;
- Changes in their screen time, both increasing and decreasing, without explanation;
- Avoiding social situations that they once enjoyed;
- Skipping school;
- Withdrawing from family and friends; and
- Changes in behavior after using their phone or computer.
6) Be aware of their screen time: Not all media consumption is the same. Teens use their screens more than ever for online homework and connecting with friends, but too much media use can interfere with time needed for daily functions, sleeping, studying, exercise, eating. Keep an eye out on what they are doing – when they are doing it, with whom and on what apps or platforms.
7) Don't respond: Bullies are looking for a reaction - don't give them that satisfaction! Teach your teen that retaliation will only make the situation worse and will make it more difficult to prove their case if the bullying goes back and forth.
Instruct your son or daughter to never open messages from users or accounts they don’t know. Delete the message before reading.
8) Document and report: To avoid cyberbullying, it is imperative that you document the abuse. Encourage your child to save screenshots of the exchanges that they feel are inappropriate or cruel.
The next step would be to block the bully. You can block the cyberbully from contacting them, looking at their social media pages, and having any interaction with them online all together. It is an effective way to eliminate the bully’s online interaction with them while also letting them know that their behavior will not be tolerated.
Depending on the severity of the cyberbullying, it may be time to involve the help of others, like their school's administration, employer, law enforcement or the social media platform.
Meyers & Flowers is prepared to stand by your side to bring a personal injury lawsuit against those liable. We believe in holding bullies and negligent schools accountable. If you or your child has suffered from acts of bullying, please reach out to our experienced personal injury attorneys to explore your legal options.
Call (630) 576-9696 for a free case evaluation.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.