What to do if your child is being cyberbullied

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Published: Tuesday 25th October 2016 by Courtney Farrow

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To help school and home life run as smoothly as possible for children, HEY Today and KCOM are supporting an eight-week cyberbullying awareness campaign run by Internet Matters.

Each week, we’ll share tips and advice on a unique topic, with this particular article focusing on steps to follow if cyberbullying is taking place.

Discovering that your child is being cyberbullied can be extremely difficult. It may be tempting to let your emotions take over by banning them from the internet or even retaliating at the bullies.

However, these actions will only make matters worse for both the victim and yourself. That’s why we’ve put together a guide on what to do and what not to do if your child is the victim of online victimisation.

Do openly discuss the issue with your child

As parents, it’s important to stay calm when finding out that your child has been the victim of cyberbullying.

Instead of allowing your emotions get the better of you, open up a relaxed dialogue with your child. Perhaps take them on a walk or a long drive, where the victim can feel safe and free from judgement.

Gently encourage them to open up to you, offering praise when they do. In the meantime, be sure to keep an open mind – there may be more to the story than what your child is letting on.

Don’t retaliate

It can be tempting to let your child reply to or retaliate at the bullies. Nevertheless, this can bring unpredictable and unwanted consequences. Encourage your child to prevent online arguments by changing conversation topics, and knowing when to leave a group chat if things start to turn sour.

Victims must also be careful what they themselves post online, because they could get in as much trouble for their involvement in the incident. Lastly, try not to include others in online arguments, as this often exacerbates the situation unnecessarily.

Don’t take away their devices

Unless your child wants you to, confiscating mobile devices or banning the use of the internet can appear more like a punishment than a solution.

Technology is a key method of communication, so shutting a young person off from the digital world may result in them feeling even more distressed and isolated.

Do block the bullies

There are plenty of digital tools and apps out there to help deal with cyberbullying. Encourage your child to block or unfriend bullies, particularly if it’s not someone they personally know at school or within the local community.

Meanwhile, upsetting content and inappropriate material can be reported or flagged on many social media platforms. The action taken by these networks, games or apps is completely down to the company’s community guidelines, but harmful activity can often be removed and users blocked.

Do keep hold of the evidence

Keeping a record of the bullying can help provide evidence if you’re planning on taking further action. Luckily, a lot of digital harassment can be saved by a simple screen grab, and then printed out to be used as proof of a person’s behaviour.

If the cyberbullying is an extension of in-school victimisation, these documents can then be handed over to a teacher or carer. This way, the incident can be dealt with in accordance with school policy.

Alternatively, if the perpetrator is someone that your child does not know directly, you could take the issue to the police.

Cyberbullying itself is not actually against the law, but much of the activity that online bullies carry out is illegal. For example, if the online harassment is of a sexual nature, targeted at an individual’s ethnicity, gender, disability or sexuality, you should seriously consider contacting the police.

Likewise, if there have been threats of violence or incitement for your child to self-harm, this can be taken to the proper authorities.

Don’t stop when the bullying stops

Just because the bullying has stopped, it doesn’t mean that its impact on the victim has too. Keep talking to your child after the incident to be sure that they are okay.

If things aren’t improving, consider a chat with a councillor to help them get through this difficult stage in their life.

If you know a parent, child or teacher that could benefit from this information, please share it with them. Together we can keep children safe and happy at home and school.

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Published: Tuesday 25th October 2016 by Courtney Farrow

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