Bullying occurs everywhere. Children are subject to bullying anywhere they interact with other children. Today, bullying has taken on a new form through social media. Unlike bullying at school, the children inflicting punishment on to their peers do not have to see the affect of their actions while safely behind the keys of a message board and so they do not have to experience empathy or guilt. They can type away with no reservations, hit send and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they have hurt someone. As a parent of a child dealing with cyberbullying, how do you help them defend themselves and, more importantly, how do you get it to stop?
Mum is the Word
Just like in person, bullies thrive on reactions. If they know they have hurt you, they will continue to do the thing that hurts you most and then find a way to make it even worse. In the case of cyber bullying, it is important not to respond to what the bully has written. When you let them know they have hurt you, it only gives them the satisfaction of knowing they have accomplished their goal.
In the same way you don’t to respond to the mean posts, you also do not want to retaliate in person as it could make the problem worse. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t say it in person, then don’t put it online. At the end of the day, words said in person could be forgotten. What you write online is in black and white forever.
When cyber bullying occurs, do not let them know you have seen the post. Once the abuser knows you have reacted, they may try to take down or delete what they have written. While everything we do online never really goes away, it can take a long time and even legal intervention in order to get that media back. Instead, play it cool and save all the evidence you have of the cyberbullying. Take screen shots of text messages or web pages and keep them in a secure folder. Then use these materials to show to a school counselor, the principal or in extreme cases, the police.
When Bullying Turns Into Threats
When your feeling are hurt, it’s hard to tell when mean comments have crossed over into dangerous threats. If the person online has said anything sexually inappropriate or threatens to physically harm you, then this is a case for the police, not just the school. Such treats can and should be prosecuted under the law.
Like all bullies, one slap on the wrist won’t make them stop abusive behavior. Even after you deal with one attack, you might have to deal with another. Continue to keep good records and report the abuse every time. While this may be a tiresome habit to keep up, it is important the abuser understands that it is never okay to bully.
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com