Teach Cyber Self-Defense
The good news about cyberbullying is that if kids know what to do, they can easily stop bullying in its tracks. Teach kids how to block, unfollow, and mute people on any social networks they use. Sit down with them and learn how the abuse and reporting system for each social network functions, and how to report bad behavior. Make sure they understand that if somebody is pressuring them to follow them, listen to them, or otherwise intrude on their social media, that they should do the exact opposite. Finally, make sure they understand that it’s OK to seek help if they feel overwhelmed or scared.
Ask If They’re OK
The signs of bullying are usually fairly clear. Bullying tends to cause abrupt shifts in behavior, like suddenly avoiding the computer, withdrawing from interaction, acting out, being anxious over text messages or social media notifications, and so on. If you notice this, ask them if they’re OK. Don’t pressure them, but let them know you know something is going on, and that you want to help.
Once they hit a certain age, your kids view talking to their parents as a huge imposition. But ignore the rolling eyes and the short sentences and make sure they understand they can always come to you. Bullying is only effective because the bully believes their target is isolated, whether online or in the real world. Even if your children want independence to some degree, they’ll give you clues that they need your help, and just having your support can help them through tough times, whether they’ll admit it or not.
It’s OK To Step In
The struggle between supporting your kids and smothering them will be an eternal one. And it’s fair to want to encourage your kids to stand up to bullies on their own. But sometimes, they’re going to need your help, whether it’s navigating the waters of bureaucracy to report a student at their school for harassing them or for you to speak to the bully’s parents. And sometimes they’re simply batting out of their league. Sadly, if an adult is targeting a teen, and it does happen, the teens don’t have the rights they deserve.
If you’re worried, if your child seems overwhelmed or scared, it’s OK to step in. Perhaps you simply back them up, or maybe you take control of the situation; it’ll depend on what’s happening. Your children may be embarrassed or even offended, but in the end, they’ll likely be grateful.
One final way to stop bullying is to simply limit social media and where and when it’s used. There’s a lot of reasons to close the tab and do something else, and if you keep reasonable limits on social media, that limits opportunities for bullying and helps your kids keep control of how they use it.
Parental control apps can help you learn more about how your child is spending their time online, and help them find a healthy balance between online and offline activity. Ready to get started? Try Screen Time for free.