Cyberbullying is a threat to our children’s mental and physical health. About 37 percent of teens admit to being victims of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullies use the internet, cell phones, video game systems, or other technology to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person. They do this by threatening, excluding, spreading rumors, or tricking their victims.
What do you do if a cyberbully has already invaded the comfort and safety of your home? If your teen is the target of cyberbullying, you can help with these tips:
- Stay calm. Tell your teen that it’s not his/her fault if they are cyberbullied, and you won’t blame them or take away their computer privileges. (This is the main reason kids don’t tell adults when they are cyberbullied). Let your teen know you support them and stay calm.
- Don’t respond. Your teen’s first response might be to retaliate, but that can make a situation much worse. Teach your teen not to respond to cyberbullies. Bullies are looking for a response and when they don’t get one from their target, many just move on.
- Block the cyberbully’s access. Over 70 percent of teens said that being able to block cyberbullies was the most effective method of prevention. Show your teen how to block the bully’s messages. Most websites let you block certain users, and phones allow you to block phone numbers.
- Save the evidence. Help your teen keep a record of all instances of cyberbullying. Print out messages, pictures, and emails, save text messages, record screen names, and capture screenshots. Let your teen know that cyberbullies can often be traced, located, and punished.
- Report it to the content provider. If you don’t know who the cyberbully is, contact the website or service where the cyberbullying is occurring and make a report. Cyberbullying is a violation of the terms of service of any reputable service provider (websites, apps, internet, cell phone companies). Report cyberbullying.
- Work with the school. If the cyberbully goes to the same school, seek the help of school administrators. Most schools’ bullying policies cover cyberbullying. If the bullying is based on race, sex or disability, contact the Office of Civil Rights as well.
- Call the police. If cyberbullying involves threats and harassment, or if you feel your teen’s safety (or the safety of someone else) is in danger, report it to the police immediately. Most states have laws related to online threats. If your local department is not helpful, contact the county or state law enforcement officials.
- Set up measures to prevent future issues. Monitor your teen’s online usage and behavior. Set up privacy controls on their online accounts. Tell your teen to never share passwords with anyone except you (not even friends), never give out personal information online, and never open emails from someone he/she doesn’t know or from someone they know is a bully.
Bullying of any kind has got to stop. Our kids have the right to feel physically and emotionally safe at school and at home.
Make sure your teen knows not to join in if he/she sees someone being bullied online. Stand up and tell others to stop cyberbullying. Get an adult involved. Be a friend to the person being bullied. Drown out the bully’s hurtful words with supportive, encouraging ones.