In earlier posts in this series I talked about what behaviors and personality traits are associated with cyberbullying. So, let’s say you have figured out that your child is harassing or bullying others on line. What can you do?
Here are 10 tips for parents to help you deal with your child or teen.
- Address the problem directly. Cyberbullying is not an issue that will go away if you ignore it. You must talk with your child directly. Insist that your child engage with you in a dialogue about his or her behavior.
- Explain that the behavior will not be tolerated. Hold the child accountable for his or her actions.
- Explain that cyberbullying can be tracked and recorded and reported to school authorities or law enforcement.
- Make it clear that safety trumps privacy. A child who has behaved inappropriately in an online environment, loses their privacy privileges.
- Discuss the ways that your child can repair the damage he or she has caused. This may include a face-to-face apology or other ways of demonstrating responsibility for his or her actions.
- Monitor his or her Internet activities and computer use. The child who cyberbullies is likely to want to be alone in order to engage in inappropriate online activities. Make it clear that parents, grandparents and other caregivers have the right to monitor online activities.
- Take electronic devices out of the child’s room. Allow computer use only in common areas of the house such as the kitchen table and ensure the screen is visible to everyone in the room. For example, don’t allow a child to sit on the couch with a laptop so only he or she can see the screen.
- Have children and teens surrender mobile devices to parents after a certain time at night. Parents return the mobile devices in the morning. There is no need for children to be using technology unsupervised late at night. If he or she uses their phone as an alarm clock, buy an old-fashioned alarm clock that sits on the night stand. Don’t accept excuses that allow kids to have phones or other mobile devices in their room at night.
- Parents must have passwords to all computers and mobile devices. Parents, not children, should have “administrator rights” to all computers.
- Seek counseling or mental health care for children who persist with their bullying behavior. Talking to the child’s teacher or school principal can be helpful, too.
As long as cyberbullying remains a secret activity, it is likely to continue. Bring the behaviour out into the open and address it. If necessary, inform grandparents, babysitters and others involved in the child’s life. Ensure that others are involved in helping your child behave appropriately in the online environment.
Remember, it is not uncommon for cyberbullies to suffer from depression or other forms of mental or emotional distress. Cyberbullying may be one sign of a much deeper mental illness that requires treatment and ongoing attention.
This is the fourth post in my series on child and youth cyberbullying. Check out these related posts:
- How to tell if your child is being cyber-bullied http://wp.me/pNAh3-1w4
- 5 Signs your child is a cyberbully http://wp.me/pNAh3-1AM
- Profile of a cyberbully: 7 Personality traits to watch for http://wp.me/pNAh3-1AR
American Humane Association. (n.d.). Cyber Bullying Prevention and Intervention. Retrieved November 19, 2012, from http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/cyber-bullying-prevention-and-intervention.html
Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (n.d.). Cyberbulling: Indentification, prevention and response. Retrieved from http://www.cyberbullying.us/Cyberbullying_Identification_Prevention_Response_Fact_Sheet.pdf
PureSight Online Child Saftey (Author). (n.d.). What should I do if my child is a cyberbully? Retrieved November 19, 2012, from http://www.puresight.com/Cyberbullying/what-should-i-do-if-my-child-is-a-cyber-bully.html
StopBullying.gov. (n.d.). Warning signs. Retrieved 2012, 2012, from http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/index.html#bullying
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.