How to Talk to Your Kids About Cyberbullying
By Hilary Smith As parents, we know our children will inevitably hit milestones as they age. We fondly recall their first steps, those initial mumbles resembling words, and the day they rode a bicycle on two wheels. However, on our children’s journey to adulthood, we often fail to address the negative discoveries they may encounter. One childhood event we frequently overlook addressing is cyberbullying.
Why cyberbullying matters?
Cyberbullying is a real epidemic facing our digital natives as they log on to social media and utilize the web. In fact, research has noticed a large spike in numbers of children admitting they have encountered cyberbullying online. Today, it is believed 87 percent of children in the United States are affected, a number that has tripled within the last couple of years. In the Philippines, cyberbullying is a growing concern.
Unfortunately, many parents and adults assume that cyberbullying can be deleted with a push of a button. While bullying once was limited to playgrounds or neighborhood alleys, that is simply not the case when it comes to digital harassment. Today’s cyberbullying is extremely cruel, because a bully has unlimited and repeated access to his victim.
How to talk about cyberbullying with children
Cyberbullying is frightening on many levels, especially since most kids do not know how to react if they are bullied online. This makes it critical to address this topic early and often with our kids. By doing so, we can empower children with the life skills they will need to thrive in our increasingly digital world.
Listed below are strategies for talking to our children about cyberbullying:
#1 Remain calm
It is essential that a child feels safe and accepted when having delicate talks that include topics like cyberbullying. Our ultimate goal is to open a line of communication that can be built upon as a child ages or encounters bullying. Avoid blaming, name calling, and yelling at all costs.
Keep the lecturing to a minimum and encourage a child to lead the conversation while trying to really hear what they are saying. It sounds simple, but listening is an art form.
#3 Teach social media etiquette, focusing on the “Grandma Rule”
Stress they should only share or post information or photos they would feel comfortable with dear old granny stumbling upon.
#4 Ask children to THINK before posting or texting
T: Is it true? H: Is it helpful? I: Is this inspiring? N: Is it necessary? K: Is this kind?
#5 Encourage children to notify you or a trusted adult if they witness cyberbullying
If a child is a target, let him know it is okay to ignore the hurtful comments and inform you that he is being harassed. If a victim responds to cyberbullying, he often fuels the behavior to continue. However, studies have found bullying often stops when someone else intervenes.
#6 Arm them with methods to stay safe online
Encourage them to only friend people they know in real life, never share passwords, avoid oversharing, and to set their privacy settings. These are essential steps to protect themselves against cyberbullies.
#7 Demonstrate how to document or save bullying messages and posts
This is important, because if the cyberbullying continues you will need to prove the behavior was repeated or widespread to get help from the authorities or school personnel.
#8 Create a family technology contract
Sit down and write a document clearly stating and defining all expectations and consequences for using technology. Make sure your child understands you will not tolerate bullying.
#9 Openly monitor a child’s activity
Be upfront and honest by letting your child know you will be checking in on him from time to time. Friending him online or following his feed is an essential step when a child first logs on to social media. As a child ages and models good choices, you can relax and allow him more freedom.
#10 If a child is a victim of cyberbullying, stress that things will get better!
It can be far too easy to fall into despair when being victimized. Let a child know that eventually this will pass.
Hilary Smith is a freelance journalist and writer. As a writer and parent, she specializes in spreading positive parenting techniques.