Cyberbullying is something that many parents worry about. It has been linked to teen suicide in some extreme cases, as well as to depression and other problems in teenagers, and it’s worrying to consider that your child might be a victim. But what happens if you discover that your child is the bully? Many parents are unprepared for the possibility that their child may be the one at fault in a bullying situation, and are at a loss for how to handle it. Below are some steps you should take when you discover your child has been bullying others online.
Take it Seriously
Cyberbullies aren’t necessarily shadowy, far-away figures.
Make sure that you treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves. There’s a tendency among children and teens to see online interactions as less real than face-to-face interactions – because the recipients of their messages are behind a screen name or avatar, they aren’t as “real” as people are when you see them face to face. It’s easy for adults to fall into this trap as well, especially if you don’t participate in social media or spend a lot of time online yourself.
However, people on the internet are real people, of course. In cases of teen cyberbullying, they’re often classmates. Treat cyberbullying as seriously as you would if your child were physically bullying a classmate. Respond as soon as you’re aware of the bullying and make it your first priority to stop the behaviors immediately. This can be done, for example, by restricting your teen’s access to their devices, at least to begin with.
Find The Root Cause
Cyberbullies can be perfectly normal teens, just like yours.
It’s important to address why your teen felt the need to engage in bullying behavior. Finding the cause can help you take steps to prevent it from happening again.
Your teen may be a victim of bullying themselves. Many teens cross over from being victims to being bullies. Their cyberbullying may be a response to previous bullying or an attempt to put on a show of strength to prevent themselves from becoming a target.
Consider the content of the bullying messages. If the content is gendered or racial, for example, your teen may have picked up harmful ideas about gender or race that need to be corrected. If the messages are violent or angry, your teen may be having trouble managing their anger about something, so they misdirect it into bullying.
Every situation is different, but getting to the root of your teen’s behavior can help you target that behavior with specific responses.
Practice Better Online Behavior
The internet is unavoidable. Eventually, your teen is going to need to use it, so it’s important that they learn how to interact productively with people online. You’ll need to monitor their online activity more closely than before and learn how to help them practice appropriate behavior.
Make sure that your teen knows how to block and report people who harass them, instead of responding with harassment in return. Talk about ways of dealing with people who make them angry, and discuss what to do instead of posting online (talk a walk, talk to a friend, etc.)
It’s also important to make sure that your teen is aware of the potential consequences of cyberbullying. Share news stories of famous cyberbullying cases with them, and point out some of the consequences. There are legal consequences of, for example, sharing explicit photos of someone without their consent, or driving someone to a desperate action. Cyberbullies have to live with the consequences of their actions. Talk about how that would feel and what that would mean for your teen.
The sooner you catch and put a stop to cyberbullying, the better, both for the victims and for your teen. Parental monitoring software can help you keep an eye on your teen’s online behavior. To find out how it works, get our free trial.