October 28, 2013
In my clinical practice, I’m often asked by the parents of my patients what they should do if they suspect their child is being cyberbullied. It’s a common problem without a clear solution, but there are steps parents and kids can take together to push back on bullies.
1. Cyberbullying Should Not Be Ignored
Cyberbullying affects almost all of American teens, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. Cyberbullying comes in many forms, but most commonly:
Cyberbullying is more intrusive than traditional bullying. A child can flee a schoolyard bully just by leaving, but that won’t work in cyberspace. Texts, Facebook posts and tweets reach victims at home, at school and in the community. Victims have few places to hide unless they disconnect from technology altogether, which can cause or fuel a sense of isolation. The nameless nature can also make the cyberbullies bolder, sending more hateful and hurtful strokes. Kids with mental illness may be particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying; parents of these kids should have regular discussions with them about online activity.
2. Parents And Kids Can Work Together To Restore Safety
So what’s a parent to do? It may not be possible to make a child bully-proof, but here are some ideas:
3. Before Confronting A Bully, Make A Plan Together
When parents learn that their child is being cyberbullied, they are usually angry, and tempted to seek justice for their child by calling the police or confronting the bully’s parents. However, kids often resist their parents’ efforts for fear of retaliation or making the situation worse. Parents should collect the facts by talking through the situation with their child, work out a plan together, and agree on what the outcome should be. The plan should also include a series of steps that they will take, should the bullying continue—i.e. calling the school, police, or Internet service provider.