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Cyberbullying - What You Can Do?
by: Priyanka Raha ~ 11/1/2018


October was the National Bullying Prevention Month. To honor the national campaign we talked about cyberbullying last week. We want to extend that discussion and go into how we, as parents and teachers, can prevent it from happening.

When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time.

We have mentioned cyberbullying is hard to detect, that is because cyberbullying happens online. So it requires a different strategy to deal with. Here are a few things that you can do.

Pay Attention
The first step to remedying any problem is to acknowledge it. Here are a few questions to ask yourselves to tell if our kids are being cyberbullied. Although this list is not exhaustive, it certainly is a place to start.

  • Is your child emotionally upset during or after using the internet or being on the phone?
  • Is your child being super-secretive of his digital life or his online persona?
  • Is your child wanting to stop the use of computer or cellphone or does not like playing his favorite game any more?
  • Is your child getting anxious on receiving a text or email?

This has to start way before any signs of cyberbullying happens. Just like you would make an effort to know your kids’ world he lives in – his friends and activities, along the same lines make an effort to know his online world. Ask to ‘friend’ them on social media and do not abuse that privilege by posting his/her baby pictures and commenting cute, or having conversations with him/her that you should have in the privacy of your home. That will be against everything we have been trying to coach.

In fact I think the mentoring should begin before kids start to interact on social media. Talk to them about the importance of online privacy and why it is a bad idea to share personal information online.

You have preemptively done the ground work. It will be that much easier to prevent cyberbullying. Then if it happens make sure to talk to them about what is happening, who are involved and how it all started.

Ever been in a moment of pain? How do you feel when you hear your friend say, ‘I get it, I have been there’? As a parent, share your own experiences of being at the receiving end of cyberbullying. Of course you should censor unnecessary details of the situation, like all conversations keep it age-appropriate.

In light of this, it is worth mentioning that a few weeks back, I had to experience a personal attack over the social channel. While I was discussing this incident with my husband, my 8 year old goes, ‘What are you talking about?’ I found it as an opportunity to make it a teachable moment. Needless to say, personally it helped me talking to my family about it.

When you get vulnerable and share your hurtful moments you are creating a safe space for your child to know that he or she can do the same when the time comes.

This might be easier said than done, but take an effort to document everything if you witness cyberbullying. Keep an account of the comments and posts that are derogatory. This will come handy if you ever need to report it officially.

Sometimes cyberbullying can take to extreme forms, like threats of violence, child pornography or sexually explicit messages. Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy is an act of cyberbullying. Stalking and using words to perpetrate hate crimes is a serious offense.

If you see or hear any of these happening, and you have done everything you can to resolve the situation, like blocking the bully, it’s time to report. This list provides a good guide on the different ways that such incidents can be taken up with the higher authorities.

There are laws today to prevent cyberbullying. There is growing awareness of the problem of bullying, which may lead some to believe that bullying is increasing. However, studies suggest that rates of bullying may be declining. Although it still remains a prevalent and serious problem in today’s schools. This means we, as parents, educators and adults have work to do.

Every effort we make, however small that is, will go a long way to ensure a safe and kind growing environment for our children.

Priyanka is the Founder and CEO of PopSmartKids, a company created to foster social-emotional learning in children by effective use of technology. A graduate from Purdue University she left her career as a tech exec in 2018 to start a movement of redefining screentime from a monitored time to a powerful tool for mentoring our future generation. She is a mom to two clever boys and a big advocate of digital citizenship for children.

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