Cyberbullying? Top 5 tips for parents
Finding out your child is being cyberbullied must be heartbreaking. As a parent, all you’d want to do is take some kind of action to stop it—and stop them from hurting—straightaway.
But, sometimes, first reactions are not the best for your child, or the situation. So before you jump in as Super Parent and save the day, think about these 5 tips.
- Don’t take away the device
Without doubt, this is the worst thing a parent can do. By removing your child’s phone or computer, it will alienate them from their peers, and not only that, it removes an essential tool for them to communicate with friends. Sure, teach them strategies like blocking or unfriending, but don’t just take the device. Remember: by removing the device you’re not teaching your child online safety, you’re just cutting them off … and probably making the situation worse.
- Stay calm and open (no big reactions!)
Think about how you usually react when your child comes to you with a problem. Can you feel the frown or the stress setting in? Here’s where you have to stop, and reset your reaction. You want your child to feel that if they tell you about the situation, you’re not immediately going to become upset, angry or anxious. You want them to know you’re going to stay level-headed and able to have a good, helpful chat. The best way to do this is to make sure you have an open dialogue from the beginning. If you don’t already have this sort of relationship, try it. Talk, without being judgemental or angry. Your child needs to be able to come to you with anything, without fear of being reprimanded.
- Gauge the problem: is it a mountain or a molehill?
How bad is the bullying? You need to grasp the extent of the problem before you can decide what to do next. Is it a few remarks here and there? Or is it more serious? More than that, you need to discern how badly it’s affecting your child personally. If the bullying itself is not very intense, but your child seems seriously affected, consider if it’s the symptom of something larger. In this case you may need to seek some outside help, whether it’s a school counsellor, a helpline, or an external professional. You can also use our cyberbullying support tool to help you work through the issue.
- Realise that sometimes kids have to fix things themselves
Sadly, bullying is not a rare issue. It happens to most of us at some time, and sometimes it doesn’t stop after adolescence. In order to cope with what life sometimes hands down, kids need to be equipped to work through things themselves. So, in order to help your child cope, think about the tools you can provide. This might mean talking about good coping strategies, or pointing out that a reaction is all a bully wants, so maybe try ignoring them?
- The importance of empathy
Empathy is a trait that can sometimes be undervalued, and it can also be overlooked. But teaching your child empathy is incredibly important; not only in coping with bullies, but also to teach them about their own behaviour. For example, ‘How do you think Jane felt when everyone in class laughed at her, and you joined in?’. Empathy is a valuable two-way street, and a bit more of it is a good thing.
Let’s face it, this isn’t any easy time for you or your child, but there are things you can do. You don’t need to feel powerless or helpless, when the best thing you can do is just be there.