01 Oct What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of today’s communication tools, such as computers or cellphones, to bully another person. New communication tools are being developed every day, and are more common than ever before. This type of bullying can range in severity from seemingly harmless teasing, to outright stalking. Cyberbullying is a serious issue that only seems to be growing worse. Technology today has given our children and teens a sense of bravado that they haven’t had in past generations. For our children, the consequences can seem minor from behind a computer screen. As parents, however, we know that’s far from the case.
First, Let’s Get the Facts Straight
Let’s start with the notion that we can protect our children from cyberbullying by restricting their access to technology. Sadly, this rarely resolves the issue, and can sometimes make it worse. Children often find a way to get around the restrictions we give them. And while your child may not have access to certain technologies, remember that other kids do. Our years of experience with child therapy at Choices has taught us that cyberbullying is causing parents and families to feel unequipped to protect their children.
Is your child being bullied?
One of the most challenging aspects of cyberbullying is that we didn’t face issues like this when we were children. This can make it difficult to help our children. We’ve compiled a few tips to help parents deal with cyberbullying, and other forms of bullying as well.
Talk it out
First and foremost, have an honest, open conversation with your children. Bullying is difficult for both of you to discuss, but the only way to resolve the issue is through discussion. This can be difficult for some parents. Choices offers family therapy if you feel you are struggling to communicate with your children. There are many ways to communicate, but the truest, most sincere communication we have as individuals is discussion about feelings. Once you understand how your child feels, you can begin to consider a resolution.
Your children need to be reminded, throughout the conversation, that they will not be judged, or punished for their honesty. Many children could be holding back facts of the situation, or their true feelings for fear of being judged by the one they look up to most, you. Reiterate that only by working together, without judgement or embarrassment, can the two of you find a solution.
Shut off the Computer
While we mentioned above that simply cutting off your children’s resources is rarely enough to solve the problem on its own, there is a similar approach we do recommend. Talk to your child, and help him or her to see why shutting off the computer, or putting the device away, and taking a break is the right thing to do. Walking away and ignoring the cyberbully puts distance between your child and the situation, and will remind your child that real life happens away from a computer screen.
Know Your Technology
As parents, we should make a point to learn about the ways kids are spending their time. Many social networking sites where bullying occurs have a Safety and Privacy section for parents, including details on how to block certain individuals, or better yet, change settings to restrict who can and can’t contact them.
Talk to Others
We have to remember that there is really no difference between physical and cyber bullying. If we were bullied as children, our parents would often seek help or advice from other parents, or even the school itself. If your child is being cyberbullied, remember that there is strength in numbers. And furthermore, if the bullying is happening online, it could also be happening at school. If you feel it’s appropriate, saving the hurtful messages to use as evidence may also benefit you later on.
If you fear your child is being cyberbullied, or are currently at a loss of how to handle it, contact Choices Psychotherapy. Our staff understands that issues like this can affect the entire family, and it’s important that they’re handled in a way that’s both constructive, and effective for your children.