Online Offense: What to do When Cyber Bullies Attack
Family Medicine provider Dr. Joanna Bisgrove shares advice on keeping your kids safe from bullies in our 24/7 online world
How can I tell if my child is being cyber bullied?
Because cyber bullying happens online or via text messaging and most children don’t tell their parents when it happens, it can be tough to tell when your child is a victim of a cyber bully. Here are some signs to look for:
- Your child suddenly spends much more or much less time texting, gaming or using social-networking sites. Any rapid change in behavior could be a warning.
- After being online or texting, your child is withdrawn, upset or outraged.
- Your child asks to have a social media or other online account shut down
- Your child suddenly avoids formerly enjoyable social situations
- Your child blocks a number or email address from his or her phone or account
- Many new phone numbers, text or email addresses show up on your child’s phone, laptop or tablet
- Your child acts frustrated and impatient, or simply acts out more
How can my child stop a cyber bully?
For many young people, the first reaction when they are attacked online by a cyber bully might be to seek revenge, avoid their friends and normal activities, or even to launch their own cyber bullying attack. These methods aren’t effective and can make the situation worse.
If your child is being bullied online, encourage him or her to react in these positive ways:
- Block any communication with the bully
- Delete messages from the bully or bullies without reading them
- Talk to a friend about what is going on
- Report the problem to an internet service provider or website moderator (if there is one)
- How can I help my son or daughter prevent cyber bullying?
With social networks connecting kids and their friends 24/7 it isn’t realistic to think you can keep your child away from cyber bullies by telling them to stay off of the internet. So, here are some tools and techniques to empower your child with when it comes to cyber bullying prevention:
- Teach your child to refuse to pass along cyber bullying messages
- Have your child tell their friends to stop cyber bullying
- Teach your child how to block all communication with cyber bullies
- Encourage your child to report cyber bullying to a trusted adult
- Keep the computer in a family area, not in the child’s room. This can help with monitoring for appropriate use of the computer and make it easier to see when your child receives a message from a cyber bully.
- Talk to you kids about being friends with them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Some kids don’t like it, while others may welcome the added set of eyes on would be cyber bullies (and some cyber bullies may be less inclined to send an attack an adult can see). If the child is resistant to their parent “friending” them, consider a grandparent, aunt or uncle.
One of the best exchanges I’ve read on Facebook was the response to series of about 50 expletive-filled messages between a young cousin and her boyfriend. The young woman’s grandmother wrote in at the end of that conversation how wonderful it had been to see her the previous weekend. Realizing that Grandma had seen their entire conversation, the pair immediately stopped. It was a subtle and perfectly executed intervention on the part of the grandmother to stop the inappropriate behavior, and a perfect example of how parents can enlist family and friends to help make sure their children are both appropriate and safe on social media.
What else can I teach my child to keep them cyber-safe?
These cyber-safety tips from the National Crime Prevention Council are great lessons for children:
- Never post or share personal information online. This includes your full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names, credit card number or Social Security number. Don’t share a friends’ personal information online either.
- Never share your internet passwords with anyone, except your parents.
- Never meet anyone face-to-face if you only know them online.
- Talk to parents about what you do online.
For more information about cyber bullying, check out these great online resources, as compiled by the National Crime Prevention Council:
- www.ncpc.org provides information about stopping cyberbullying before it starts.
- Stop Cyberbullying Before It Starts (PDF) provides useful information for parents.
- Cyberbullying.us provides cyberbullying research, stories, cases, downloads, fact sheets, tips and strategies, news headlines, a blog, and a number of other helpful resources on their comprehensive public service website.
- www.stopcyberbullying.org has a fun quiz to rate your online behavior, information about why some people cyberbully, and how to stop yourself from cyberbullying.
- www.wiredsafety.com provides information about what to do if you are cyberbullied.
- www.stopbullyingnow.com has information about what you can do to stop bullying.
Learn more about what qualifies as cyber bullying and the signs that your child is a victim of cyber bullying attacks in the article Online Offense: What Is Cyber Bullying?