Cyberbullying is bullying or harassment that happens online. It can happen in an e-mail, a text message, a game, or on a social networking site. It might involve spreading rumors or images posted on someone’s profile or passed around for others to see, or creating a group or page to make a person feel left out. What can we do to protect our children from being bullied or being a bully?
Talk to your children about bullying. Tell them know they can’t hide behind the words they type and the images they post. Bullying is a lose-lose situation. Hurtful messages not only make the target feel bad, but also make the sender look bad. Ask your child to let you know if an online message or image makes them feel threatened or hurt. If you fear for your child’s safety, contact the police.
Read the comments. Cyberbullying often involves mean-spirited comments. Check out the comment section of your child’s social media accounts from time to time.
Recognize the signs of a cyberbully. Could your child be the bully? Look for signs of bullying behavior, such as creating mean images of someone else. Keep in mind that you are a model for your children.
Help stop cyberbullying. Most children don’t bully, and there’s no reason for anyone to put up with it. If your child sees cyberbullying happening to someone else, encourage him or her to try to stop it by telling the bully to stop and by not engaging in the poor treatment of others. Researchers say that bullying usually stops when peers intervene on behalf of the victim. One way to help stop bullying online is to report it to the site where you see it.
What to do about a cyberbully? Don’t react to the bully. If your child is targeted by a cyberbully, keep a cool head. Remind your child that most people realize bullying is wrong. Save the evidence and be willing to discuss it with your child. If the bullying persists, share the record with school officials or local law enforcement.
Block or delete the bully. If the bullying involves instant messaging or another online service that requires a “friend” or “buddy” list, delete the bully from the lists or block their user name or e-mail address.
Behavioral Health Systems is the parent company of Safety First. BHS offers Mental Health and Substance Abuse benefits to employers along with Employee Assistance Programs.