Cyberbullying is a digital form of verbal and social bullying, in which (in most cases) a teen or child harasses, shames, or abuses another online, who is often a classmate or peer. First and foremost, it’s important to understand cyberbullying and how to prevent it by knowing how many kids are affected, what the impacts are, and how to coach your child to become a responsible social media user.

Teen girl in shock looking at laptop

 

Signs of cyberbullying

First, it’s important to know the signs so that you can recognize if your child is being cyberbullied. Bullying can affect multiple aspects of your child’s life, including their academics and their physical, mental, social, and emotional life. Watch out for these changes in your child:

  • They don’t seem to want to use their smartphone, tablet, or computer anymore, or are jumpy when they do use it.
  • Their mood changes after going online. They may become sad, angry, or frustrated.
  • They become more secretive about what they are doing online or avoid talking about it.
  • Their sleep patterns change. They may oversleep or not be able to sleep well.
  • Their eating habits change, including an increase or decrease in consumption.
  • They withdraw and may seem uneasy about going to school or attending other social activities.
  • They don’t want to be around friends. Instead of being around their peers, they would rather stay home with their parents.
  • They lose interest in things they used to enjoy or seem depressed.

How to deal with a cyberbullying situation

If your child is demonstrating the signs above, he or she may be a victim of cyberbullying. Though this is undoubtably upsetting, it’s a good idea to take a few steps before reacting. While you may want to contact the bully’s parents, this could lead to further problems for your child.

You will be key in helping your child empower him or herself. It’s crucial for kids to learn how to stand up for themselves in a responsible way that won’t perpetuate online exchanges and cause the situation to spin out of control.

Mom comforts teen boy

 

Step 1: Listen

A good first step is to talk with your child about what is going on. Ask them if someone is being mean to them or if they’re having trouble with friends at school. Getting their perspective will be important in coming up with a solution, and will make them feel heard and cared for. Make sure that your child knows it is not their fault that this has happened to them and that they don’t deserve to be treated this way.

Be sure to have this conversation calmly. If you get distressed by the news, it will likely upset your child in turn. Get as much information as possible, including the context of the situation and everyone involved.

Together, you and your child can work out an action plan. Ask them how they think the situation should be handled, and don’t be afraid to offer your perspective as well. Talk through the steps each of you will follow, and then execute your plan together.

Step 2: Instruct your child not to respond or retaliate

The goal of a bully is often to get a rise out of their target. Responding to a hurtful post on social media only plays into the bully’s efforts to hurt and humiliate. Ignoring the bully is often the most effective response.

If you and your child decide some concrete action is needed to resolve the conflict, then if possible, try to find a way to do it through real-world interaction. You may need to help them rehearse what to say and how to confront the one who is bullying them.

Line of youths on mobile phones

Step 3. Gather evidence

Teach your child how to capture screenshots or recordings of messages, images, videos, or any other evidence that shows they are being bullied online. Keep a record of all instances where they are being cyberbullied. Ask them to let you know when it happens, where, and who is involved. If the bully uses multiple accounts to harass your child, document them. This information can be important if disciplinary action becomes necessary by your child’s school or the authorities.

Step 4. Use privacy tools to protect your child

You can make the internet a safer place for your child by using tools built into many online platforms. Show your child how they can block the bully on social media so they can’t be tagged in photos or messaged. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms all have privacy settings that can help protect your child from a known bully. Block text messages and calls from any phone numbers associated with the bully and change your child’s phone number if necessary. You should also report the behavior to the social media platform.

In addition, teach your child not to accept friend requests or open direct messages from people or accounts they don’t know. You may also want to teach them about password safety and that they should never share their password with anyone — not even a friend. Help them set up a strong password to prevent any hacking attempts by their bully.

It’s also a good idea to monitor your child’s online activity closely, particularly when they are under the age of 13. This can be a daunting task, but fortunately, smart technology is making it easier. Advanced language recognition used in tools such as Bark can analyze messages and help find potential issues in your child’s exchanges with others across digital platforms, including cyberbullying and online predators, or even depression and suicidal thoughts.

You can try out Bark today for free, with 20% off your purchase of the full plan. This offer isn’t limited to CenturyLink customers and all plans include unlimited legal dependents and devices.

Step 5. Report the behavior

Depending on your child’s age and whether the bully is a classmate, you may want to talk to your child’s school about what is happening. The bullying may be occurring both at school and online, and school administrators should be aware of the situation to help prevent it from escalating. Be sure to show them the evidence you have collected. If your child’s bully is making violent threats against them, or if you feel the behavior is crossing over into illegal harassment or stalking, report the incidents to the police.

You can also check out this full list of social media apps, gaming platforms, and other digital places where you can report cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is no joke and can have serious consequences for everyone involved. With these five steps, you can empower your child and help them get free from a damaging situation as soon as possible.