Cyberbullying is an ongoing online harassment. It may include texts, social media, emails, and gaming chats. Cyberbullying occurs for many of the same reasons as other forms of bullying, but it can be more dangerous because of its 24/7 convenience and anonymous nature.
Another threat of cyberbullying is that the bullies can include people who would not usually participate in traditional bullying. The ability to “hide behind a screen” can be appealing to those who typically shy away from confrontation because they are introverted or have low self-esteem
The COVID-19 pandemic can put children and teens at a higher risk of being cyberbullied. During this time, when kids are stuck at home, the devices used for school and entertainment, can also become the mediums used for bullying.
Here ways that you can help lower the risk that your child will be impacted or involved with cyberbullying:
Create rules and boundaries.
I recommend that all parents establish clear boundaries on what is allowed and what is not. Parents should let their teens know which apps and games are unacceptable to download, define what types of social posts are inappropriate, and be clear on when phone usage is not permitted. Collecting your kids’ phones and even setting the Internet on specific devices to turn off at a particular time each night can help discourage staying up too late and prevent online activities.
There are also parental controls available, like eero Secure, which can connect to a teen’s phone and other devices to help monitor and prohibit inappropriate usage.
Talk about cyberbullying and online safety.
It’s essential to understand that there’s no way to fully control who doesn’t see a published post or private message. Although Instagram stories, Snapchat, and other social networks allow users to share moments that only display for 24 hours, the posts and photos that are shared can reach more people and display beyond the time intended through screenshots and sharing. Pictures and posts that get used against someone may become a form of cyberbullying.
It’s important to let teens know that they should always consider others’ feeling and speak up if they witness cyberbullying or if they become a victim themselves.
If your teen becomes a victim of cyberbullying, you should explore what’s going on by asking open-ended questions such as “how often are you experiencing these mean comments online?” Like other kinds of bullying, the perpetrators of cyberbullying are more likely to continue if they’re getting a reaction. Teens who get cyberbullied should send the bully a short message to ask them to stop and then block the bully from their social network. You can also report cyberbullying to many of the social networks: Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook.
Practice The Three E’s
The Three E’s (Empathy, Empowerment, and Engagement) is a framework that I often use in my therapy practice, and that can help parents form a stronger connection with their teen. Parents should ask their teens’ open-ended questions and set time to listen empathetically. Parents can empower their teens to share their opinions and encourage open communication by providing ongoing engagement and regular check-ins.
Click here to learn more about connecting with your teen with the Three E’s.
About the Author:
Danielle Matthew is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who helps adolescents, adults, couples, and families who are in pain due to issues such as anxiety, severe stress, low self-esteem, or depression. With over 20 years of experience, Danielle authored Amazon Parenting Best-Seller, The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying, and is the Director of The Empowerment Space Bullying Therapy Program in Los Angeles. Featured in Huffington Post and TODAY.com, Danielle has appeared on Fox, ABC, and CBS Morning Shows and Mom Talk Radio, and is the expert contributor to Washington Post’s article: “Kids love to ‘roast’ each other. But when does good-natured teasing become bullying?