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How to Talk to Your Child About Cyber Bullying

Since October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the US, this week we’re covering cyber bullying. Keep reading for guidelines on how to speak to your child if you suspect they are a victim of cyber bullying. (If you need a refresher on what cyber bullying is, you can check out this blog post.)

How you handle a bullying situation will largely depend on your child’s age. See the tips below from Child Development and Behavior Specialist, Betsy Brown Braun, for what to say to your child, regardless of whether they’re being bullied at school or online:

Young Children

If your child complains of someone at school making them feel bad, hurting their feelings, or picking on them online, tell them to immediately notify a grown-up (be it a teacher, parent, babysitter, or relative) because a grown-up will be able to help.

Read on for tips on what to say if your young child comes to you with this issue.

Older Children

You should urge your older child to tell a grown-up, but also give them suggestions on how to respond to a bully.

Bullies boost their own self-esteem by putting others down and often prey on victims they perceive to be weak, so it’s critical that your child is prepared with a response. This response can be anything from a nonchalant “so what?” or “who cares?” to a curt “back off!”

For cyber bullying situations in particular, urge your child to tell the bully to stop. If the bully doesn’t stop, your child can save and print the evidence (be it a Facebook message or a screenshot) to show to an adult.

If the cyber bully is anonymous, the Cyberbullying Research Center recommends reporting them to the content provider. For example, Facebook and Google make it easy to report instances of cyber bullying, since harassment constitutes a violation of their terms of service.

Most importantly, tell your child that they have your support. Children need to know that you believe them and will help them.

Finally, encourage your child to always take the high road when dealing with a bully and never stoop to their level. You can echo Michelle Obama’s now famous words, “when they go low, we go high,” to model the proper attitude towards handling bullies. (Source: Laurie Levy, Huffington Post).

What Not to Say to Your Child When They’re Being Cyber Bullied

  • Do not tell them to just walk away or ignore the bullying because this will not help your child feel empowered. (Remember: Bullying is more serious than teasing because it’s targeted, repeated behavior. Therefore, it shouldn’t be ignored.)
  • Do not encourage them to change their behavior in order to be accepted by the bully. (Source: Laurie Levy, Huffington Post).

Taking Action

Combating cyber bullying is a community effort that requires parents, students, and schools to work together. National Bullying Prevention Month was established to bring communities together to educate and raise awareness around bullying prevention.

To learn more about National Bullying Prevention Month, as well as the activities and events sponsored by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center that are taking place in October across the nation, you can visit the PACER website here.

The PACER website has tool kits for elementary to high school educators and parents that are designed to spark discussion about bullying prevention inside and outside the classroom. PACER also has tips for getting involved, as well as resources for parents.

If you’re eager to learn more about how to help your child deal with cyber bullying, check out this blog post. Stay tuned to the blog for more on cyber bullying and issues surrounding online safety.