Protect Kids from Cyber Bullies with Simple Safeguards
When we were kids, the power of the school bully was limited to the playground. But today, intimidation and ugly behavior often occurs online, making it a challenge to protect our children—even when they’re seemingly safe at home. Here are a few tactics to safeguard your son or daughter from cyber bullying.
- If your child seems withdrawn, emotional, or is acting out of character, bullying could be to blame. Let your child know that you are always available to talk and listen. It’s unlikely your kid will want you to get involved, but you can offer advice and guidance that cultivates his or her own problem-solving skills.
- In some cases of cyber bullying, the perpetrators are anonymous or live halfway across the world. Your child should not engage online with people he or she does not know personally. But whether the bully is a stranger or lives down the street, insist your child remove that person from his/her social media circles.
- Silence is often the best offense. Although the natural impulse is to get angry or get even, your child can maintain control by refusing to engage. Chances are the bully will get bored and move on.
- Discuss the permanency—and consequences—of social media posts. Compromising photos, offensive language, and hurtful remarks can spiral beyond their intended audience and have lasting, real-world ramifications. As our moms used to say: don’t say (or post) anything you wouldn’t want printed in the New York Times.
Remind your unhappy offspring that no one else gets to define his or her self-worth. The best way to beat a cyber-bully is to ignore the hurtful remarks, stay positive, and refuse to identify as a victim.
What to do if the bully is your child
If you suspect your child might be the bully, first, stay calm.
This does not mean you’ve failed as a parent, but it’s time to get serious. Have a frank, even-tempered conversation that stresses empathy and maturity. Remind your child that your love is unwavering, but the behavior has to change.
It may sound cliché, but the “do unto others” rule still holds true. Your child must understand that all people deserve respect and dignity, and that demeaning others is a cowardly act he or she will surely regret later in life.
Deciding on a punishment is a personal decision, but an apology must be part of the plan. This teaches your child the importance of accountability.
Also, take some time to assess what might have triggered this behavior. Is your child struggling in school? Could he or she be mimicking the behavior of others? Kids are complex, and their motives may not be obvious.
We can’t monitor our children round-the-clock, but we can demand that they exhibit kindness and lead by example.
Where to find help
If you can’t make heads or tails of Twitter and other social media sites, you might feel ill-prepared to protect your child from undesirable online activities. Find help at stopbullying.gov.
Updated August 28, 2017