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It’s a sad reality that children today are being innocent victims of the anger and frustration of other kids their age. The Internet, and new smartphones apps, have become new platforms for bullies to abuse and harass others, and it’s no surprise, due to the anonymity of many applications, that many bullies are never identified. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that is almost invisible to parents, as no form of physical abuse is displayed. Regardless, the effects it can have on a child’s mental health can be devastating.
In most cases, children who are not prepared to confront such behavior feel threatened and helpless by a bully’s malicious behavior, especially when they protect themselves with the anonymity of the Internet. Help your children combat cyberbullying and its dramatic effects by teaching them easy safety measures and tactics.
1. Don’t pay attention. Even though your kids may not understand this at first, explain to them that often it is best to do nothing when a cyberbully attacks. Online bullies, or ‘trolls,’ like the attention they receive from their target, and in many cases the bully only wants to create pain and conflict, no matter what the responses are. Close the conversation before it increases the troll’s attention.
2. Build a barrier. Bullies can be very persistent, depending on their objective. While a single message can be ignored, multiple unpleasant texts can’t. Social media sites and cellphones all have block options that can be activated in a few seconds. The Bully is never notified that they have been blocked. If a bully creates multiple accounts to fight this, it is still faster to block accounts than to create a new one.
3. Save the messages. Unfortunately, many bullying cases start small and then become worse over time. It is important that you keep records of all offending content in case the abuse becomes worse and you want authorities to get involved. When malicious behavior is demonstrated with evidence, it is easier for authorities to respond.
4. Play with Passwords. There is one type of cyberbullying that involves stealing your child’s account passwords and posting embarrassing content with their identity. You can fight this together with your child by periodically changing the passwords of their accounts, deleting any offending content, and posting in the hacked account an explanation of what happened in case that others were offended.
Please note that a bully may have altered the contact information in the account, including the email address where a new password can be reset. Be very careful when helping your child protect their personal information to avoid repeated hackings.
5. Report the event. When the bully has already changed the password and you have no way of recovering access to the account, you can report the incident directly to the website and they will disable it or restore your child’s access. Many social sites are putting up a fight against cyberbullying and have easy tools and links to help you do this.
6. Follow them. You are responsible for your child’s safety. Being as informed as possible of your child’s online activity can prevent many unfortunate events. If you are ‘friends’ with their accounts, you can follow their posts and see what others post to their site. If you see something unpleasant, contain your impulse to address the bully, as this can make the situation worse for your kid. Talk to your child about the situation privately and in a calm matter.
7. Don’t blame them. Never blame your child for other’s behavior, regardless of how the situation originated. It is vital that your child feels safe at home from these attacks. Make it clear to your child that everything that is happening has to do with the bully’s issues, not with theirs. Try to make this attacks a positive experience for your relationship with your children.
8. Talk about it. Communication is key. Create a system, or structure, for how to handle an uncomfortable bullying situation. Every child handles problems differently, be aware of how your child may react to different situations and know when they will ask for help and when you should offer it. Be aware of changes in behavior and increased anxiety. With cases of cyberbullying and internet usage increasing, it is important that you know the signs of cyberbullying, so you can be prepared to step in and protect your child, should the need ever arise.
Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. @AmyKWilliams1
Publication date: July 14, 2015