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There also may be some behaviours specific to their online use:
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS CYBERBULLIED
To help your child, it's essential to treat cyberbullying seriously without over-reacting. For your child to feel comfortable opening up to you about a very hurtful and shameful event, they need to know you won't make it worse by getting angry or freaking out.
Take a systematic and calm approach.
Step #1: Talk with your child about cyberbullying
If you suspect your child is being bullied, but they haven't come to you, find a way to bring it up when the two of you have time together. You can bring up a story or article you read about cyberbullying or about how teens are using technology today. Ask them open-ended questions like “What kinds of things have you seen about cyberbullying?” or “Have you ever been worried about it?” Keep the lines of communication open.
If your child has told you they've been cyberbullied, listen without over-reacting. Be your child's advocate without making the situation worse for them. Learn about the extent of the bullying. Sometimes kids say mean things to each other and it may be premature to jump into action. But it's just as important to not minimize a situation that has become serious.
Explain that cyberbullying is unacceptable.
Reassure your child that they're not alone, that they're going to be okay, and you'll get through this together.
Avoid blaming your child for being bullied or judging how they've handled things. Your goal is to help them feel safe, and build up their self-confidence.
Tell your child not to respond to or forward any of the cyberbullying messages. Have your child block the person or people doing the cyberbullying from all their accounts: their email account, social networking sites, and contacts. If necessary, have your child change their email address and/or cell-phone number. Start a file of the evidence.
Have your child give you a record of all the offending emails, text messages, social networking posts, phone messages, photos, and instant messaging history. Record the dates and times of all episodes and save and print screen shots for reporting.
If you get the impression that your child's mental health is suffering – that they've become depressed, aren't eating or sleeping, or are having thoughts of self-harm – get support for your child from a mental health professional.
Step #2: Report the cyberbullying to digital providers
Report the abuse to your Internet Service Provider, mobile service provider and social networking sites:
Your Internet Service Provider is the company you've chosen to connect you to the Internet from your home. Most have 'acceptable use' policies in place and encourage reports of cyberbullying. If the bully has an account with the same firm, and you can provide evidence of the bullying, the company may issue a warning or even a suspension/termination of the bully's account if warnings are ignored.
If your child is getting bullying texts or messages on their mobile device – and your child's mobile service provider is different from your Internet Service Provider – report it to the service provider. They, too, will likely have policies in place and encourage reports of cyberbullying.
Most social networking sites like Facebook have established policies on cyberbullying and reporting abusive content. Last year, Facebook introduced a Cyberbullying Prevention Hub where users can report that they are being bullied (or that a friend is being bullied). Learn the reporting procedures on all the sites your child is active on, and report it through the appropriate channels.
Step #3: Report the cyberbullying to your child's school
Even though cyberbullying takes place online, it can disrupt the school environment (children take their mobile devices everywhere with them) and the bullying can be happening face-to-face as well.
Learn who to report cyberbullying to at the school. If you know your child's teacher, you may want to approach them first. Or you may want to go to the vice-principal or principal of the school.
Learn what steps the school takes when cyberbullying is reported. Keep in mind that this isn't a problem the school is responsible for on its own. Many school boards have a bullying policy too.
Step #4: Report the cyberbullying to law enforcement
Do not hesitate to contact your local police authorities should the bullying involve any of these behaviours:
Learn the potential legal consequences of cyberbullying and a full list of the kinds of offences that may be associated with cyberbullying.
Step #5: Get outside help to deal with cyberbullying
If your child is showing signs of continued depression, isolation, anxiety, loss of interest in eating or sleeping, or showing any signs of self-harm or thoughts of self-harm, do not hesitate to seek support from a mental health professional.
THINGS NOT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS CYBERBULLIED
When you're in the midst of strong emotions, it can be difficult to know just how to treat such a distressing situation.
Keep in mind that your child needs to feel safe opening up to you about a very painful experience. By avoiding some of the things below, you'll become a bigger help to your child.
Do not tell your child to “just ignore it”. While it's important to help them avoid future attacks by not responding to or blocking the bullying, you want to give your child the impression that together you're going to do something about this.
Do not blame your child for being cyberbullied. Even if something in their behaviour may have triggered the bullying, no child deserves to be bullied, no matter what they've done.
Do not criticize them for not coming to you earlier, or for how they've handled things. There likely were many reasons they let things go this long before approaching you. Let them know you understand how difficult it's been to share this, and you're glad they have now.
Do not tell your child to retaliate. If your child begins responding, it may escalate the situation and spur the child that is cyberbullying on. It also gives the message to your child that hurtful behaviour is okay.
Do not contact the parent of the child that is cyberbullying (unless they are already a well-known neighbour or friend). This often makes things worse and can deteriorate into argument or shouting matches. Your school's teachers or administrators can mediate between parents and help everyone come to a course of action that will help all the children involved. (Those who are bullying often need support as well.)
Is Your Child Being Cyberbullied?
Dos and Don'ts to help your child
- various literatures
WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?
Cyber bullying is bullying through email, instant messaging (i.e. IMing, Messenger, Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber), chat room exchanges, Web site posts, or digital messages or images send to a cellular phone or personal digital assistant (PDA). Cyber bullying, like traditional bullying, involves an imbalance of power, aggression, and a negative action that is often repeated.
Cyber bullying has some rather unique characteristics that are different from traditional bullying:
Anonymity: As bad as the "bully" on the playground may be, he or she can be readily identified and potentially avoided. On the other hand, the child who cyber bullies is often anonymous. The victim is left wondering who the cyber "bully" is, which can cause a great deal of stress.
Accessibility: Most children who use traditional ways of bullying terrorize their victim at school, on the bus, or walking to or from school. Although bullying can happen elsewhere in the community, there is usually a standard period of time during which these children have access to their victims. Children who cyber bully can wreak havoc any time of the day or night.
Punitive Fears: Victims of cyber bullying often do not report it because of: (1) fear of retribution from their tormentors, and (2) fear that their computer or phone privileges will be taken away. Often, adults' responses to cyber bullying are to remove the technology from a victim - which in their eyes can be seen as punishment.
Bystanders: Most traditional bullying episodes occur in the presence of other people who assume the role of bystanders or witnesses. The phenomenon of being a bystander in the cyber world is different in that they may receive and forward emails, view web pages, forward images sent to cell phones, etc. The number of bystanders in the cyber world can reach into the millions.
Disinhibition: The anonymity afforded by the Internet can lead children to engage in behaviors that they might not do face-to-face. Ironically, it is their very anonymity that allows some individuals to bully at all.
COMMON FORMS OF CYBERBULLYING
Cyber bullying can take many forms. However, there are six forms that are the most common.
Harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages
Denigration: Distributing information about another that is derogatory and untrue through posting it on a Web page, sending it to others through email or instant messaging, or posting or sending digitally altered photos of someone
Flaming: Online "fighting" using electronic messages with angry, vulgar language
Impersonation: Breaking into an email or social networking account and using that person's online identity to send or post vicious or embarrassing material to/about others.
Outing and Trickery: Sharing someone's secrets or embarrassing information, or tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information and forwarding it to others
Cyber Stalking: Repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm or are highly intimidating, or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety (depending on the content of the message, it may be illegal)
No parent wants to learn that their child has become a victim of cyberbullying. But worse is not learning about it until long after it's begun.
By keeping lines of communication open with our children, and being alert to changes in their behaviour, parents may be able to offer help sooner.
Here are some of the common signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying: