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How to help your kids deal with cyber bullying

Last week we spent some time discussing the difference between cyber bullying and other kinds of bullying, as well as the negative effects felt by victimised children. You can read more about these topics here.

This week, we’re focusing on what you as a parent can do if your child is the victim of cyber bullying.

If you have insights into this important topic, please feel free to share them with our Safe Social Media community on Facebook.

Cyber bullying – an overview

Studies show that 1 in 5 children in Australia, aged between 8 and 15, will experience cyber bullying. With this statistic in mind, it is quite possible that you will need to help your child deal with this challenge at some point in their life.

This is the second blog in a 2-part series on cyber bullying amongst children. The first part focuses on identifying whether your child is being victimised by cyber bullies, so you know whether to take action.

Head here to read more about what to watch out for.

What can I do?

Here are our top tips for helping your child deal with the challenges of cyber bullying:

1. Do not minimise their upset or pain

If your child tells you they are being cyber bullied, be careful not to minimise the issue.

Cyber bullying has a big impact on children and adults alike, so it is important to make your child feel heard and understood, especially if they are approaching you for support.

Consider responding with something like, ‘I am so sorry to hear this is happening to you, it must be very upsetting.’ From here, you can start to create a plan to deal with the cyber bullying, but keep in mind that helping your child emotionally is just as important as stopping the cyber bullying in its tracks.

2. Watch out for signs of depression or anxiety

Is your child eating the way they normally would? Are they withdrawn? Are they sleeping more or less than usual?

If you do notice your child’s behaviour has changed, it may be a symptom of the bullying they are experiencing. At this point, we recommend taking your child to a GP or health care professional, who can then refer them to a trained child psychologist.

Kids Matter* is a great website, which features information on how to identify depression in children, and practical steps parents can take. Read their information on depression in children here.

* Kids Matter is run by the Australian Government, beyondblue, Early Childhood Australia and the Australian Psychological Society.

3. Keep the computer in a public space at home

We touched on this strategy in a previous eebudee blog. The idea is to create a common area of the home, usually the lounge room, where computer devices can be used. If you’re not in this room, any tablets, phones or laptops are stored in a big basket or on a table in plain view.

If your child is being cyber bullied, it is then not happening in private. Secretive computer use may signal that something is happening in your child’s online life.

If they only use their computer when you or other members of the family are around, then they are not alone if cyber bullying does occur.

4. Know what social networks your child is on

Many parents now ask their children to provide usernames and passwords for all of the social media networks they are on. This is especially important for young children, as they are still developing their ability to assess and manage risk.

You don’t need to constantly check up on your little one, but checking in when you can will help you identify whether cyber bullies are targeting your child. On the flipside, if your child knows you have access to their accounts, they are more likely to think before posting something inappropriate.

5. Contact the bully’s parents

Although it may be difficult to approach the parents of the child bullying your child, it is often the best and most direct way to stop cyber bully from getting any further. It’s also an opportunity to ask the parent to take down the inappropriate content relating to your child.

Consider that cyber bullying is known to have a significant impact on the mental health of children (and adults too!, so as uncomfortable as it may be to contact the bully’s parents, it is important to your child’s ongoing wellbeing.

6. Take practical steps

If your child is being cyber bullied, we recommend printing and saving the offensive messages as evidence of the bulling incident or incidents. That way you can show the school, the bully’s parents or in some cases, the authorities, what your child has been exposed to.

It may seem like overkill to get the authorities involved, but if you have approached the bully’s parents and upsetting or offensive content continues to be posted about your child, it may be necessary to get the law involved.

Keep in mind that showing your child how to stand up for themselves is an important lesson. Even though no parent wants to see their child endure the trauma of cyber bullying, there is a silver lining, if you take the right steps towards resolving the situation.

Find out more

For more information on cyber bullying and safe social media practices for young children, please visit our blog.

You may also be interested in signing up for eebudee, a social media network that helps kids under 12 learn how to handle cyber bullying and other challenges associated with online life.

eebudee is completely secure, and designed for the whole family. Head here to sign up.

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