09 Aug My child is a cyberbully, what should I do?
As a parent, it can be difficult to know how to react when you find out that your child has been cyberbullying other kids. We recently received an email with this exact subject line – My child is a cyberbully, what should I do?
That’s confronting for any parent who may have believed their child would never be engaged in bullying, but it’s an important conversation to have. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re dealing with this situation.
What is cyberbullying?
Bullying is when one child uses their position or power in a relationship to repeatedly cause psychological harm. It may be verbal, physical, or socially oriented. Though bullying can happen anywhere, such as on the bus or at school, bullying is increasingly shifting to online methods. This is known as cyberbullying.
It’s easy for kids to cyberbully because they can do it anonymously and reach a wide audience with little effort. Cyberbullying usually takes the form of mean, hurtful comments posted on social media, but can also include threats, spreading rumours, or embarrassing photos or videos. Sometimes this happens indirectly and without the victim’s knowledge, but it can ultimately result in the victim being ostracised and outcast by their peers.
Identifying cyberbullying activity
Kids Helpline provides a range of helpful ways you can identify if your child is engaged in bullying online. As a parent or carer, we strongly encourage you to be “hands-on” when it comes to mobile phone and computer use, and their level of online activity.
Monitor their online activity closely and look for signs that they may be engaging in cyberbullying again. Telltale signs can include:
- Pressuring others into situations or handing over personal information
- Making hurtful comments (that they would never say in person) to stir others up. This is known as “trolling”
- Liking, commenting, sharing or spreading posts that are hurtful (even if they didn’t create the post)
- Making direct or indirect threats to others
- Creating fake profiles or pretending to be someone else, in order to shift blame or remain anonymous
- Intentionally excluding others from participating in conversations or friendship circles as a way of wielding power
My child is a cyberbully- what now?
If you’ve identified the signs of cyberbullying in your child then firstly, take a deep breath. It’s normal to feel upset, disappointed, and angry if you believe, “my child is a cyberbully”. However, having a difficult conversation about this when you’re already feeling emotional and agitated is likely to backfire.
The first thing you should do is talk to your child about what they did and why it was hurtful to the other kids involved. It’s important to avoid coming across as judgmental, so try to maintain an open and understanding attitude. It’s also important not to make assumptions about why your child cyberbullied in the first place.
There could be a range of reasons why your child engaged in cyberbullying, such as peer pressure, feeling left out or excluded, or because they’re experiencing bullying themselves. It’s important to explore all the possible reasons with your child so that you can address the underlying issues.
Preventing future cyberbullying
Once you’ve had an open discussion with your child about cyberbullying, it’s important to work on prevention for the future. Help them to understand the consequences of their actions and how it can impact the lives of others.
Encourage them to be more thoughtful and considerate when posting online. There’s no such thing as a private post – once it’s out there, anyone can see it. Help them to understand that cyberbullying can have serious real-life consequences, such as making the victim feel isolated, anxious, or depressed.
Encourage respectful behaviour online
It’s also important to talk about cyberbullying in the wider context of respectful behaviour online. This includes not only direct cyberbullying but also not engaging in cyberbullying behaviour such as “liking” or commenting on hurtful posts. Help your child to understand that their actions online can have a significant impact on others, even if they don’t intend for it to be hurtful.
Another powerful tactic is to work on building your child’s self-esteem. Kids who cyberbully often do so because they feel bad about themselves. Helping them to feel good about themselves will make it less likely that they’ll feel the need to put others down.
Mediate an apology
Encourage them to apologize to the kids they bullied and make a commitment to change their behavior moving forward. You could also help them to write a letter or email apologizing for their cyberbullying. Even better, engage the teachers at your child’s school so they can be aware of the situation and help monitor bullying behaviour in future.
This is a difficult conversation to have, but it’s an important one. Cyberbullying can have a lasting impact on the lives of those involved. As a parent or carer, you play an important role in teaching your child about respectful behaviour online.
Seek professional help
Wondering who to turn to if you believe “my child is a cyberbully”? Our advice is to seek professional help if you feel like your child is struggling to stop cyberbullying on their own. A counsellor or psychologist can help them to understand the underlying issues and develop strategies for dealing with cyberbullying in future.
If you’re worried about your child’s cyberbullying behaviour, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Veteran Mentors offers a 1-day workshop for parents and carers who live with a young person that displays concerning behaviours.
Our Junior Leadership program is also designed to assist children, aged 12-17, to address poor behaviours and become accountable for both their behaviour and decisions. These programs are ideal for children demonstrating low self-esteem, lack of respect, addiction to technology and media, or simply to propel them to reach their fullest potential.