Protecting Your Child from Cyberbullying
Bullying no longer occurs in the school environment alone. It can continue even after students are at home through cyber platforms. Cyberbullying is prevalent and increases each year for school-aged children and teens. Shelby Rowe, intentional injury project analyst for the statewide injury prevention program at Arkansas Children's Hospital, offers a few tips for parents if they suspect their child is being cyberbullied or engaging in the behavior.
- Regardless of age, race or gender — bullying in any form should not be tolerated. Children should tell parents or teachers immediately if they feel they are being threatened by another child.
- Parents should monitor their child's Internet activity by viewing their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any social media accounts. Parents should also set or obtain passwords to their children's social media profiles in the event of a cyberbullying situation.
- Mobile phones are the leading device used for cyberbullying. Threatening text messages and picture messages can instantly be shared to a mass group of people.
- Parents should be aware of children's actions and look for an increase in missed school days, illnesses, anxiety, dress or even revenge-seeking behavior.
- Children most likely feel embarrassed to talk with parents if they are being cyberbullied. Remind children that no one deserves to be bullied and it is not their fault.
- If you feel that your child is being cyberbullied, take screen shots or save text messages of the threatening language or images they receive. Document everything in order to report it. Block the bully from access to your child's online profile.
- Children who are often targeted are those who stand out in any way. A child's physical appearance, race, sexual orientation or cognitive ability can become a target for bullying.
- Notice if your child's behavior is consistent with that of a bully. Are they competitive and feel intimidated by other people? Do they make excuses or refuse responsibility for their actions?
- Cyberbullying can be discouraged by enforcing consistent discipline policies and informing children that there are severe, legal consequences for their actions. Respect and dignity should be taught in the home and classroom.
- Parents can go to their child's school to report incidents of cyber bullying because it is included in the state law that sets guidelines for school anti-bullying policies. Depending on the severity, parents can also take the documented evidence to local law enforcement for prosecution.
- Parents should not take matters into their own hands by confronting either the bully or the bully's parents. Never respond directly, but document and save evidence.
"Bullying is not a normal part of childhood," Rowe said. "Now we know better, and we need to empower educators and parents that bullying should not be tolerated. It is never OK, no matter what our age."