How to Stop Bullying for Kids ???
It’s a reality of modern life that kids are almost constantly tethered to their phones and other portable devices. Electronics have defined a way that a generation communicates, socializes and shares information. The Internet has also become a cornerstone of education, with online work increasingly embedded into lessons.
For parents, phones can be a great way to make sure your children safe and to stay in touch. But they also expose kids to potential harm, in the form of cyberbullying.
As a parent in the 21st century, it’s important to conquer any fears of the digital world to not only protect your kids, but also to help them to become good online citizens.
Unfortunately, most people will experience bullying at some point in their lives, whether it’s in the schoolyard, the workplace or online. Being constantly connected to the web does pose an additional challenge however, as your child is no longer free of the bully when they walk out the school gates.
Cyberbullies utilize technology to stalk and harass their victims and can turn the lives of the people they target into a living hell.
Types of Cyber Bullying
Some different types of cyberbullying include:
- Impersonation – Sometimes known as ‘catfishing’, this particular form of bullying involves pretending to be someone else. This might be designed to humiliate the victim when the truth is revealed or to get them to share personal information. The bully may also choose to impersonate the victim themselves, stealing their identity to post harmful or damaging material in their name.
- Flaming – What starts as a disagreement between two posters can quickly spread, disintegrating to a vitriolic war of words (which no-one will win).
- Harassment and stalking – Some bullies will track their target down across a number of sites, sending unwanted messages or posting photos that could be potentially damaging. This type of bullying can also take the form of public humiliation, as the content posted is directly intended to make others think differently of the victim
- Exclusion – As in real life, being made to feel alienated and unwanted can be a powerful form of harassment. In the online world, this might mean blocking someone from joining a particular group or conversation.
Spot the Signs
It might not be immediately obvious if your child falls victim to a bully. Some indicators include:
- Avoiding school or performing badly academically
- Sudden mood swings, most notably anger and anxiety
- Withdrawal and reduced social life
- Low self-esteem
- Retaliating by becoming a cyberbully themselves
- Self-harm or attempted suicide
How to stop bullying for kids
You don’t need to know everything about technology to help your kids deal with cyberbullying. It’s important to remember that while the medium is different, the motivation behind bullying and the effects it can have on the victim are usually the same.
Although you may have less experience in the digital world than your child, you still have a wealth of knowledge and parenting abilities that make you well-equipped to deal with this issue.
It’s great to put in preventative measures early by setting ground rules and talking to your kids about cyber-safety. Discuss what’s appropriate for kids to write online and decide what content they should be able to access (including which social media sites they can join). Some simple suggestions for rules and boundaries include:
- Sharing their mobile number and usernames with only close friends and family
- Not sharing other people’s number or profile without their permission.
- Limiting downloads to legitimate websites and avoiding untrustworthy sites that might expose them to hacking, viruses and other risks
- Switching on number blocking when they make a call (so that their phone number can’t be saved)
- Encouraging them to think twice before they post or message. A useful question to ask themselves is ‘How would I feel if my parent saw this?’
- Not forwarding on embarrassing or cruel information they receive about someone else
- Setting PINs and passcodes for their devices (including the SIM and voicemail)
- Never sexting or sharing pornographic images. Remind them of the long-term problems this could cause, particularly since sharing images of people under 18 can constitute a criminal offence.
While you don’t need to know anything about technology, it certainly helps to take an interest. Try to stay current with what’s happening in your child’s digital life.
Stay in touch
Once the rules are set, it’s important to keep talking and to keep communication channels open regarding online activity.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your children if they seem to be showing signs of distress that might point to cyberbullying. Try to get them to open up about exactly what’s happening so that you can better understand what advice to give.
If they do reveal that they’re being bullied online, remind them that it’s not their fault and reiterate that it was brave for them to tell you. Remember that they’re likely to be embarrassed and ashamed by what’s happening, so take plenty of opportunities to boost their self-esteem.
Practical Solution to the Problem
You can then start to work together to develop a practical, rational solution to the situation. Here are some suggestions that might make a good starting point:
- Don’t ever respond to the bully. Most bullies are seeking negative attention, so ignoring them is the best strategy to make it stop.
- Screenshot the offensive posts or messages. If things worsen, these images could be vital pieces of evidence in an investigation.
- If the bullying is occurring on social media, block or de-friend the perpetrator. Depending on the site, you may also be able to report them to administrators. If this doesn’t work, consider shutting down or temporarily deactivating the account.
- Contact your phone service provider to discuss options for blocking certain incoming communication.
- Because mobiles make the victim accessible 24 hours a day, it can be a welcome reprieve to simply switch off a mobile for a few hours or overnight.
If your child has fallen victim to a bully, it might seem like a good idea to take away their phone so that you can stop the problem at its source. In fact, this could be the worst response. Confiscating their device is likely to alienate them from their friends and it might even seem like a punishment, meaning that they don’t come forward in the future.
It’s important to continually remind your child that they’re not alone. Even if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, there may be another adult in their life that they can consult, such as a teacher, sibling or a trusted family friend.
Remember that cyberbullying isn’t just cruel – it’s generally against school rules and it’s often illegal. If the bully is a student, consider approaching their principal or teacher. If the situation is serious (e.g. physical threats), don’t be afraid to go to the police.
One final suggestion – don’t be shy in talking to other families. Share advice and information and make sure you inform them if you think their child might be a victim too.
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