Written by: Hannah T
Once again, our local Girl Scout, Hannah T from Parsippany, has prepared another blog for us about cyberbullying as she continues to work towards the completion of her Girl Scout Gold Award. The goal of her project is to bring awareness to the issue of social media, internet safety and cyberbullying by creating and presenting on the topic, creating posters, and writing blogs and articles. Her hope is to educate adolescents and their parents about the subtle hazards of social media by also providing strategies when social media gets ugly.
What Is Cyber Bullying?
Bullying is a term that’s been around for a long time. Parents understand bullying to be physical harm caused by one child to another, for some or no reason at all. The intent is to cause harm, fear, or intimidation. Well, let’s fast forward to our present day with Snap Chat, Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else that’s here or about to be here. Cyber-bullying is here. What is that exactly? It’s when a child/adolescent is being targeted and harmed by interactions over social media/the internet. However, past this definition, it can make teens feel isolated, hopeless, and cause them to lose interest in things they normally love to do. With that said, if your child shares with you that she is the recipient of a rude or hurtful message on social media, you need to know how to mediate these situations.
In the past, before the internet and social media, when someone was bullied in school, when they went home, they were able to gain a break from the bullying. Presently, that barrier doesn’t exist anymore. The bullying persists because of one tap on their phone screen and it’s right there. There is no break of respite from this type of bullying, and it is vital for parents to step in.
What Should Your Child Do?
If your child comes to you with an instance of cyberbullying, whether it be a conflict they had with a friend through text messages, a post directed at him on Instagram, or someone posting pictures of him on Snapchat without permission, the very first thing to do is make sure your child takes a screenshot (picture) of the text, photo, and comments. If the other child chooses to delete her texts or conversations, you still have a copy of the content.
Even more importantly, make sure that your child does not reply to the messages in any way since this will just give the bully the reaction he or she would like. If your child has already replied, still screenshot the conversation, but your child will also then be partaking in cyberbullying, even if they did not act first.
Next, you’ll want to have your child block the person the cyberbullying is coming from, so this doesn’t continue to happen. Also, don’t just have your child block them on the site where the bullying is taking place, have your child block them on all social media platforms where they can possibly be contacted. This will truly ensure the bully won’t be able to contact your child any longer.
What Should I Do?
You should probably keep a close eye on your child’s phone and social media accounts, just in case the bully finds another way to contact your child. If you feel as though the situation is not handled, bring the screenshots/pictures of the cyberbullying to your child’s school principal, and they have to act on the messages they see. Finally, make sure to be comforting and uplifting to your child.
Being cyberbullied makes kids feel helpless, inferior, alone, dissatisfied with themselves, and many other awful feelings. Instead of making your child feel punished by taking her phone, just establish that if anything else happens, she needs to come to you first. Depending on the severity of the cyberbullying, your child may also need to be comforted as well. If your child is highly distressed, you may want to seek counseling.
Remind your child that people only bully others when they aren’t happy with themselves and that the bully’s messages are meant to create fear, panic, and hurt self-esteem. Additionally, try to spend more time with your child, or set limits on phone use. When teens are off their phones and having fun with their friends and family, problems over social media seem less impactful to them, which is what your goal to be as a parent in this situation; help your child realize that the bully is insignificant and shouldn’t be allowed to take over their mood and happiness.
Overall, teens who are being cyberbullied need guidance and support during this time. Bond with your child, listen, offer advice, and sympathize. Seek private counseling if the impact of the cyberbullying is pervasive and begins to negatively impact the ability to attend school, maintain friendships, engage with family members, complete homework, and study for tests. The ultimate goal is to not become punitive but rather to sympathize and problem solve together while maintaining general life activities and family time.
Photo from: Pexels
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles