Overview: A practical approach to cyberbullying involves blocking the offender on the app, muting them through operating system and app controls, and reporting them using the app’s tools. You can also control apps and their behavior with parental control software.
How to Deal with a Cyberbully
You cannot reason with a bully, whether in person or online. Fortunately, unlike in person, online they can simply be excised from your family’s emotional space to protect children’s mental health. Whether you’re seeing signs of kids being cyberbullied or simply want to be proactive, there are simple steps you can take against cyberbullying.
Develop Emotional Tools
Start by developing emotional tools with your kids. Talk them through managing disagreements, being reasonable in highly charged situations, and keeping their cool when faced with difficult people. Particularly important is the concept of “personal emotional space.” A personal social media feed is a different space emotionally from a chat room or a fan page, just like your living room and the classroom are different spaces.
Kids should know that bullies will attempt to humiliate or attack them when they defend themselves. They should also understand that there’s no upside to replying or interacting with a bully, even to tell them that they’re no longer talking to them. Cutting them off completely is the only functional policy.
Another approach is to implement rules like the “real person” rule, where kids only “friend” people they know and keep profiles private to limit interaction with strangers. Anonymity can fuel bad behavior online.
Implement Software Tools
Controlling apps at multiple levels can also help.
- At the operating system level, you can generally disable notifications through the phone’s settings, which helps block out messages from bullies trying to attack once their target throws them out of their emotional space.
- At the app level, familiarize yourself with how blocking, muting, and reporting work, where these options are, and how to use them. For example, do you have to fill out a report, or is reporting automatic?
- Parental control software can go further, limiting what times apps are used, blocking the download of certain apps, and controlling specific features.
Learn How To Document
Anyone who has dealt with a bully knows the behavior called DARVO: Deny, Accuse, Reverse Victim and Offender. Documentation prevents attempts by an offender to do this by keeping a clear record of who said what and when. Take screenshots of abusive messages, for example. File these screenshots somewhere other than the app. For apps that prevent documentation, like Snapchat, consider blocking access with parental control software or limiting use.
For more information about how to block users or restrict their actions on specific platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, see Pen America’s Online Harassment Field Manual.
What To Do When You Know The Bully
Cyberbullying can spill over into real life, particularly when your child goes to school with the bully. In this scenario, the best situation is to limit real-world interaction.
Again, remember DARVO. Many bullies will use the change in context to attempt to reframe the situation so your child looks like they overreacted or was even bullying them. The best strategy is to ignore where possible and for kids to involve adults where needed. It should be made clear to the bully that they are not entitled to interact with anyone they please online, and that if they don’t like being blocked or muted or losing their account, then they need to modify their behavior.
Cyberbullying is a complex issue that’s difficult to manage, and parental control software like Screen Time can help. To learn more about how Screen Time can help protect your child from bullying, sign up today, or try it for free.