My Child Has Been CyberBullied: What Do I Do Next?

Today we have another guest post from Joseph Yeager.  Joseph has written before talking about keeping kids safe online, and he’s adding in some more great point!   Be sure to follow him (links below) so you don’t miss any of his great advise:

Think that your kid hasn’t been cyberbullied? I hope that you’re right, but according to the Cyberbullying Research Center (CRC), 11.5% (roughly one child out of eight) has been cyberbullied. In one report by the CRC, they report that the actual number could be as high as 40%!

One-in-Eight-Cyberbullied


It’s not always easy to tell who has been a victim of it, either. Several studies have shown that it’s not just the loner or the nerd that gets attacked. Popular kids are sometimes the victim, too. That means that in a typical middle school class, between two and four of the students have been attacked. Or, if their 40% figure is accurate, it means that more than 10 students could have experienced cyberbullying.

It can be very scary for the victim. It also can be a very unsettling time for parents. If you think that your child has been attacked, here are some things that you can and should do:

Reassure the Child
Make sure that your child feels safe! Let them know that you will protect them and take steps to keep them safe. Tell them in no uncertain words that they didn’t do anything wrong. This fights off the image that many bullies try to make their victims feel – that they are worthless and deserve what is happening to them.
Don’t Overreact
After reassuring the child, make sure that you don’t overreact. It’s too easy to tell a child that if they’re being bullied online that they should just not use the computer. That’s the wrong message to send to your child and may not even help the situation. Students that get their computer or mobile device time reduced or taken away may feel as though their being punished.

That’s contradictory to what you’ve just told them when you reassured them and many kids would prefer to suffer the bullying rather than give up their online time. Plus, if the child is being attacked from someone from their own school or neighborhood, it does nothing to prevent that form of bullying from continuing.

Save the Evidence
Ask most parents if their kid was a cyberbully and you’re likely to get an adamant, “Never!” as a response. That means that you will need to prove it to them, or if it escalates far enough, prove it to the police. Unlike traditional bullying where it often becomes a case of one person’s word against another, cyberbullying leaves a paper trail. It may be the only good thing about cyberbullying.

Start by making printed copies of any messages and emails, including screen shots if needed. Most, if not all smart phones can take a screen shot and save it just like a picture taken by the phone. On computers and tablets, if possible, save the screen shots as JPGs or PDFs so that they can be retrieved later. Ask your service provider or manufacturer about how to do it or do as I did and watch a YouTube video on it for your specific phone. Just be sure to print copies out too so that you have them if something happens to your computer/device.

Do not delete any emails that they have sent. There will be an automatic impulse to delete anything that reminds the victim of the incident, but they need to preserve the evidence. Never open any file attachments sent to you by a bully. However, if you do open one before you realize that they are a bully, to avoid any problems with viruses or malware, save it to a flash drive. Don’t save them to your hard drive. When you’re done, still don’t delete the message itself. You never know when it will be helpful in any criminal or civil proceedings against the aggressor. If you need to avoid seeing it, see if your email provider allows you to create a folder for messages that you don’t want to see in your inbox.

Practice Positive Slamming
The best idea that I’ve heard of recently is Positive Slamming. It means that the friends of a cyberbullying victim respond quickly and en mass to support the victim with positive statements, such as “You’re wrong, <inserts bully’s name here>, <insert target’s name here> is a terrific person and a great friend. You just wish that you could have friends like <him/her>.”

Positive-Slamming

This not only tells the bully that their actions are wrong and not welcome here, but it also (and more importantly), helps the victim know that they are not alone. If you’ve ever seen Amanda Todd’s heart wrenching video, you know that she felt completely alone and hopeless. Many cyberbully victims feel that way. No child, or adult for that matter, should ever feel that way!

Review Privacy Settings
Get in the habit of regularly checking the privacy settings for your kids’ accounts, as well as your own. Social media sites can change them without notice! Did you know that? While most do inform people about the changes in advance, how many of us just ignore the message or fail to go see the specifics about the new terms?

Many apps from social media sites ask that users allow the apps to access their account. It lets them suggest apps to their friends because they use the app. I always recommend that people minimize their digital footprint to avoid providing ammunition to others that are trying to harm them. This certainly falls into that category. You may be surprised to see apps that aren’t even used anymore. Be sure to delete any/all access that they have to your child’s account.

Strengthen Your Weakest Link
So, you think that you’ve protected yourself and your kids by making your own privacy settings as restrictive as they can be, huh? It’s a good start, but too often, that’s not enough. Privacy is only as private as the biggest blabbermouth that knows about it.

Tip-Talk-to-Friends

To help minimize your digital footprint, speak to your friends about what you want them to share from your account that shows up in their incoming feed. Ask that they not tag you or even identify you in photos that they post online. Once they share a picture from your account onto their own account, their privacy settings, not yours, dictate who can see it from their there.

The Best Defense is a Strong Offense
By that, I mean that parents can prevent a lot of the problems associated with cyberbullying by preemptively discussing the subject with their kids. Let them know that it is possible that they may be targeted at some time. We have already taught our eight year old daughter that bullies (of any kind) frequently do it not because of the victim, but how they feel about themselves.

In what was one of the best responses to bullying, actor Will Wheaton detailed his own experience with being bullied as a child and helped a little girl who was being called a nerd. Kids need to understand that most bullies can only feel good about themselves when they make everyone else feel less than they do about themselves.

I can’t promise you that your children will not be targeted by a cyberbully, but I hope that I’ve provided you with some good ideas on what to do if it does happen to you. Please discuss these ideas with your kids.

I thank you for reading this article. If you would like to learn more about cyberbullying and other online issues, I encourage you to visit  My Facebook Page at Parent’s Guide To Social Media or follow me on Twitter: @JosephMYeager.

 

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