How to Talk to Kids About Cyberbullying
Parents who grew up in a different era often struggle to understand how damaging cyberbullying can be. Today the internet plays such a central part in young people’s lives that online bullying can have a devastating impact.
One of the reasons cyberbullying is damaging to children is because they can’t escape from it at home. Telling kids to stay off the internet or ignore bullying is unhelpful if a significant portion of their time is spent online.
To tackle cyberbullying, families need to communicate and come up with strategies for managing it.
According to a 2015 survey, 34.4% of kids aged 11 – 15 had an experience with online bullying, showing how widespread the problem is.
Sometimes cyberbullying takes the form of belittling comments and harassment. Peers may target a child’s social media accounts for abuse or set up fake accounts in their name to humiliate them. They may spread lies about them and encourage others to join in.
Other forms of bullying are more insidious and involve deliberate exclusion from groups or unfriending to cause distress. Kids may be coerced into taking photos they’re not comfortable with, and bullies may post images to ridicule them.
Less obvious bullying is often passed off as ‘fun’ which is why it can be so confusing for kids. The best way to help children identify bullying is to talk about all the ways it can manifest. Kids need the tools to understand what bullying is before they can deal with it.
When discussing bullying with your child, reassure them they can come to you with their problems and you’ll take them seriously. Being shamed in front of peers is a devastating experience with long-term effects, so don’t underestimate their pain if your child is targeted. To counteract cyberbullying you can:
- Monitor your child’s social media accounts to make sure they only connect with people they know. This becomes harder as kids get older, but it’s important to instil the lesson.
- Limit use of devices to common areas only for younger kids so you can keep an eye on what they’re up to.
- Tell kids how important it is to let an adult know if they are harassed.
- Teach them how to block bullies and maintain their privacy online.
- Talk to kids about how everything posted online could be there for a long time. This will help them be more reflective.
- Ensure your child has a full and active life outside beyond cyberspace. Those with a range of diverse friends and interests won’t feel lost if they have to stay offline for a while.
- Put the devices away and spend regular quality time together as a family. This is one of the best ways to build resilience and self-esteem.
Cyberbullying can cause much pain and distress for kids, which is why communication is important.