A Parent’s Guide to Cyber Bullying

As parents, it’s the last thing we want to imagine, but in an age of social media, bullying has taken to the online realm. What once just happened on school buses and in crowded hallways is now taking on a much more personal and difficult to detect form, and cyber bullying is now a topic of worried parents and lawmakers alike as the adults all try to find solutions.

What is Cyber Bullying?

Cyber bullying is basically any form of online harassment that is persistent and used to make someone feel helpless and insignificant. More often than not, it takes place over social media platforms like Facebook, where it can be public or private.

How Do I Know if It’s Happening?

Given the nature of this type of problem, it can be hard as parents to know if it’s something our kids are trying to deal with. Sure, some of us may monitor internet usage and limit time online, but in the end, do we really know what exactly is going on in the complex online social lives our children are forming?

And the truth is, most kids are usually pretty reluctant to talk about it if it is going on.

The key here is communication. If you suspect you child is dealing with cyber bullying, it’s time to start talking to them, and even if you don’t, make sure to check in with them frequently. Keep the conversation light and nonchalant, and ask them how things are going at school, and if kids are nice, or if there are some instigators in the bunch.

Pay attention to your child’s emotions and mannerisms – do they often appear anxious or moody? Are they more than just your Facebook obsessed kid, do they frantically check their accounts, and does their attitude seem to change afterwards?

There’s no need to get gung-ho about it and violate their privacy to find out if anything is going on – just pay extra close attention to your child, open up the lines of communication, and let them know they can come to you with any problems. More often than not, kids feel cornered by the situation, worried about going to an adult out of fear of complicating the situation.

What To Do If Your Child is Being Cyber Bullied

If it turns out there is a problem, and your son or daughter is dealing with cyber bullies, don’t complicate the problem by handling it for them. Cyber bullying has a way of making the victim feel helpless and isolated, so instead ask your child what you can do to help. Talk to them, hear what they need, and let them know they’re in control of the situation.

The effects of cyber bullying can be incredibly damaging to a child’s self esteem, so make sure you build them up during these difficult times. Build up their independence with enriching activities that challenge and engage them, and build up their confidence with genuine and sincere compliments and words of encouragement.

Confidence and independence is key to raising a child that pushes backs against attempts to victimize them, but they’re capable of feeling patronized and smothered just the same as adults are – make sure it’s genuine, and make sure it’s on their terms.

Putting the Problem Into Perspective

It’s important to understand that even with the sensationalist headlines you see in the news media on the topic, cyber bullying is not normal behavior. Though the increase in our online communications has served to facilitate this problem, it also creates an incredible space to connect and interact with people around the world in a very positive way, so don’t shelter your child from internet use based on this concern alone.

There are a lot of threats out there to our children, but cyber bullying is one that we can manage on our own by raising confident, self-reliant children. Remember, this isn’t a technology problem, but rather, it’s a problem with the way some people handle relationships that just happens to happen online as well. Raise your children with the capacity to resolve conflicts on their own, stand up for themselves, and have compassion for others, and you’ll have a child that’s much less likely to fall victim to cyber bullying.

The key thing here is to not over react, and to not jump to the conclusion that every argument or rude comment is cyber bullying. Throwing this label at every quibble can make kids feel like victims, even when they really aren’t.

Kids, like adults, are going to have disagreements from time to time, and it’s perfectly normal. What you need to be on the lookout for is the type of behavior that is nagging and persistent, and tries to alienate and belittle your child.

Of course, there is always more than one side to the story, so before you jump to conclusions, make sure to gather as much information on the situation as possible, without violating your child’s privacy or breaking their trust – you’re there to help, and acting without speaking to them first could only make things worse for them.

Once you have a good grasp on the situation, start working with your child to help them find a solution to the situation. Build their confidence, strengthen their resolve, and teach them it’s okay to stand up for themselves and others if this ever goes on.

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