Cyberbullying or online bullying has become a sad reality for many of our young people today. The pervasive nature of mobile phones, social networking sites and the internet in general has potentially made online abuse for more dangerous than schoolyard bullying. Here are 7 ways to provide our kids with cyberbullying help.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying can take many forms, but they ultimately involve using technology to intimidate or isolate another person. It can have a detrimental effect on your child’s mental health. Sometimes, your child can also be in immediate danger if it involves the release of personal information such as phone numbers and home addresses.

Cyberbullying behaviour includes:

  • Sending mean or hurtful text messages through social media sites or mobile phones
  • Sending embarrassing photos or videos, or coercing the victim to do so
  • Creating fake profiles on a social media platform to send instant messages or post status updates
  • Spreading rumours via emails, text messages or social networks

Cyberbullying help

With 60 per cent of teenagers experiencing some sort of cyberbullying, we need to do everything we can to protect and equip our children as early as possible.

In the video below, Michael Hawton talks about the worsening of the behaviour of school children and how to help our children when it comes to cyberbullying.

Our kids may not always tell us about cyberbullying and so the following tips are preventative as much as they may be curative.

1. Teach them to “self-talk” 

It is important to let them know that only people close to them matter and should impact their feelings and actions. Someone once told me that in life, many people will hold views about you and some of those views will be ill-founded. Only worry about what your family and close friends think about you—the others do not know who you really are and their views are less important.

2. Report the bullies

The more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle an authority has (such as a school leader, coach, parents or family), the more they can see a pattern, which they can use in holding a tough conversation with a bully. So encourage your children to speak up, either to you or another trusted adult. Open the discussion up about any inappropriate behaviour they see or engage in.

3. Disconnect 

Whether it is walking away or just stopping the use of their device for a while, these strategies can give your child time to work out what to do. It’s tempting to go into a tizz when you first feel insulted by someone, but part of becoming more mature is knowing when and how to give a proportional response. This includes knowing when to stop worrying about things that have no easy solution and realising that you can’t control other people, but you can control what you do and how you respond

Read: Would you invade your child’s privacy to prevent online bullying?

4. Sleep well

Sleep plays a major role in how well-balanced our emotions are. The younger you are, the more your body needs sleep for growth and emotional stability. We’ve all been a little guilty of being overly emotional and irritated from lack of sleep. Children and teenagers are no different and suffer the same effects. Therefore, it is important children sleep for a minimum of 10–12 hours per night. Getting enough sleep makes us all more resilient for life’s situations and more capable of making the right decisions in the face of bullying.

5. Telling the difference

Teach them not to confuse people’s “right” to complain or disagree as abuse or as an affront; they’re not the same thing as bullying. Ask your child to tell you what happened and give them constructive feedback. For example, someone looking at you the wrong way is not bullying. It may be unpleasant but it’s not bad. While comments and disagreements can feel hurtful and challenging, it is often the way we manage these that can ease or escalate a situation. Of course, ongoing and deliberate attack is bullying and needs to be spoken up about.

6. Encourage your child to build an army of allies

It can be intimidating for children to step in when they see bullying occur but, your child needs to understand that being a bystander is being complicit to bullying. Seeing it happen and doing nothing is just as detrimental as being the one to throw the harsh word (or fist). Being part of a bigger peer support group who refuse to allow bullying to occur is empowering. Likewise, being with your group makes it less likely for bullying to occur.

7. Embrace social media positively

There is always an underlying concern when it comes to children on social media as it can be harder to monitor and regulate. And of concern is that the age of children using social media is dropping drastically, largely with little monitoring by parents.

Social media doesn’t have to be off-limits or as scary as parents think. Education is key here: Teach your children how to block, mute and report trolls and hate speech. They also need to know how to adjust their privacy settings in way to that they’re comfortable with.

Digital abstinence is unrealistic in our society, especially the older your child gets, as you don’t want them to alienate themselves either. Therefore, managing a supportive and welcoming friendship so allies are central is key to using social media to be . . . social!

Online safety starts at home

On a concluding note, and as a reflective notion for all of us parents, we encourage our children to learn to defend themselves physically with lessons such as Karate or Taekwondo. Shouldn’t we also be helping them to defend themselves psychologically from potential mental health problems?

Growing up is all about finding our way and place in society, and many of our life skills are attained through our school years. This may not necessarily be in the classroom but at recess and before and after school. Equipping our child with social tools and the confidence to use them can make all the difference, just as the lack of these can.

If you know your child has been bullied or witnessed others being bullied, they can receive professional cyberbullying help from:

Australia: Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800)

New Zealand: 0800 What’s Up? (0800 942 8787)

In serious cases, especially where self harm is evident, contact your local police.

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