How to Help Teens Cope with Cyberbullying (Online Bullying)
Before social media, it seemed easy to leave the bullies at school and have a life of your own at home. For teens today however, keeping the bullies out of sight and out of mind is harder to do.
The barrier between school and home life is more transparent than ever with the rise of social media. If your teen is receiving hateful messages from an online bully, it can feel impossible to escape and can deeply affect their mental health if not taken seriously.
To help your teen cope with online bullying, follow these tips.
Responding to Cyber Bullying
1. Don’t Respond
Bullies want to get a reaction out of their victim, so the best thing someone can do in this situation is not to react at all. Turn off the phone or delete the app for a while.
Cyberbullies gain confidence behind the thin veil of privacy that is the internet, and they are far less likely to say harsh words in person. Keep interactions with them online to a minimum, as it will only escalate the situation.
2. Keep Receipts
Before making permanent decisions like blocking the cyberbully’s account or deleting any personal accounts, start gathering receipts of the incident. Screenshot all relevant social posts, blog posts, texts, etc. to keep as evidence.
3. Contact Your Child’s School
Although the incident occurred online, many states allow schools to intervene in cyberbullying attacks, especially if they trigger more in-person bullying on school grounds.
Many cyberbullies think they can escape accountability by taking out their aggression online instead of in person, but there are still avenues for them to face the consequences of their actions.
If the school is unable or unwilling to respond, or if the cyberbully makes any explicit threats, report the incident to your local police department without hesitation.
Helping Your Child Cope with Online Bullying
1. Cyberbullying and Social Media: Redirect Their Attention
Pay close attention to your child’s behavior after the incident, as cyberbullying can affect a child in a variety of ways, from feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable to developing depression or suicidal thoughts.
Plan fun activities together or encourage your child to explore a new hobby. Everyone copes differently, and children and teenagers are still learning what works for them. Help them explore a variety of activities they can cope with.
2. Enroll Them in Teen Counseling
Being the victim of a cyberbully attack can leave a child feeling very alone and vulnerable. It’s important that they feel supported by friends and family at this time.
Introducing them to a counselor gives them a private space to talk to about the event and reduce its hold over them. It is especially important to seek help if you notice differences in your child’s mood, sleep, or diet. This does not exclude college students—we all need support when events like this happen.
3. Build Boundaries Around Technology
Today’s youth sees cell phones as their entire world. Being their main method of communication, taking away your child’s cell phone will only exacerbate the problem.
Instead of removing the phone, teach your child to use it for their benefit. Talk to them about private vs. public accounts, spending a finite amount of time on the phone each day, or choosing different apps to get the social fix they need.
Some platforms, like Twitter, have robust ways you can personalize your social experience. For example, in your settings you can choose to “mute” tweets with specific words or usernames.
If your child goes on social media to relax, it might help to mute certain hurtful words. If they go on social media to talk with friends, it might help to mute specific account names instead. Play around with what works.
Research tells us that children are less likely to report cyber bullying because they think their phone will be confiscated. Remember, the phone is not the enemy, the cyber bully is.
Help your child cope with the situation without taking away their social freedom. Schedule an appointment today and we can work collaboratively to find a solution that works best for your child.