Three years ago, I was approached by a concerned parent of one of my students. She shared with me how her child was receiving mean messages from another student through a popular children’s gaming website. The other student was calling her son inappropriate names and telling him that he should quit the school’s technology club. Other students had seen the messages and some had sent messages of their own. It was clear that my student was a victim of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can occur at any time. It’s important to understand how to handle the situation if it happens to your child.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying occurs when a child, teen, or preteen, uses some form of digital technology to threaten, stalk, harass, humiliate, or target another person in the same age group. In most cases, the bully and victim usually know each other from school or they live in the same neighborhood. Every threat should be taken seriously.
- About 10% of kids admit to cyberbullying others
- About 43% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online
- About 4 out of 10 middle school students have had their password(s) stolen and changed by a bully who then locked the student out and sent communication posing as the student
- Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying
- 55% of parents have not discussed the subject of cyberbullying with their child(ren)
Victims of cyberbullying often feel helpless and feelings of depression can occur. In some extreme cases, victims may have suicidal thoughts.
The most helpful thing that you can do is pay attention to any changes in your child’s behavior. Victims of cyberbullying often will want to avoid school or activities that put them in the vicinity of the bully. You’ll want to watch for symptoms of anxiety or sudden social withdrawal in a child who previously seemed to enjoy the company of others. Another sign may be that your child avoids using the computer or other digital technology.
What You Can Do If Your Child is Cyberbullied
As a parent, you will need to open the lines of communication with your child. It’s important that your child feels safe in reporting an instance of cyberbullying to you. If cyberbullying occurs, it’s important to reassure your child that you are there to help. Here’s what you can do:
- Do not respond to the cyberbully.
- Keep copies of the harassing messages.
- Report cyberbullying to the online service provider it happened through (such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, or Gmail).
- Report the cyberbullying to local law enforcement.
- Inform your child’s school.
Educate your child so that he or she knows what cyberbullying is and how to recognize it. Teach your child to “stop, block, and tell.”
- Stop: Stop all communication with the cyberbully and stay calm
- Block: Block the bully, if possible
- Tell: Let a trusted adult know about the bully
Practice each of these steps with your child to help him or her know what to do. Then, your child will have the confidence to act if cyberbullying does occur.
I gave much of the above advice to the parent who approached me. When she spoke with our school’s administration, they were able to mediate a meeting between the school’s guidance counselor and the cyberbully’s parents. I am glad the parent took such an active approach in helping her child feel safe.
To learn more about helping your child remain safe on the internet, visit our Internet Safety for Kids tutorial and our lesson on Cyberbullying and Cyber-Harassment.
PureSight Online Child Safety: A Collection of Cyberbully Suicide Stores
Stop Cyberbullying Before it Starts
Cyberbullying Project: Statistics on Cyberbullying
Think Time: How Does Cyberbullying Affect You?