Cyberbullies

Previously in this blog, we wrote an article about cyberbullying, which detailed some statistics about cyberbullying, and helpful hints for keeping your child safe from cyberbullies.  But, what happens if your child is the cyberbully?  No parent wants to be confronted with this issue, but if you ever find yourself in this unfamiliar territory, it’s crucial to handle the situation appropriately for the sake of your own child and for the victim’s sake.

First, you will likely need to limit your child’s use of the Internet.  Let the child know that the behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable, and Internet use will be limited or eliminated until he/she can learn to use online media appropriately.  Beyond this initial reaction, you will need to discuss with your child how to use the Internet appropriately.  Lay clear expectations and ground rules.  Let you child know that he/she will have to demonstrate that he/she understands and follows the rules consistently and without reminders before full, unsupervised use of the Internet will be granted.

Next, sit down with your child to discuss why cyberbullying is so harmful.  Oftentimes, it’s easy for people, adults included, to write or type things that they would never say to someone’s face.  We all get brave when hiding behind written words because we know we will not have to see the reactions of the other person.  We don’t have to see the anger or tears, and we don’t have to hear the immediate backlash.  Ask the child how he/she would feel if someone said that to his/her face.  Would it hurt the child’s feelings?  Make him/her cry?  Or feel angry?  A good rule of thumb for online chatting is to never type anything that you would not say to the person’s face.

Finally, you can also ask the child to think about what was said, and why it was said.  Was the child feeling angry?  Betrayed?  Sad?  Brainstorm with your child how the situation could have been handled differently.  Talk through options of how to manage these feelings and confront the situation.  Help your child choose an appropriate course of actions for the next time he/her feels this way and needs to handle a situation appropriately.

Do you have experiences with cyberbullying?  Have you been the parent, the victim, the cyberbully?  How was the situation handled?  What tips do you have for confronting cyberbullying?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Episode 2: Cyberbullying

New technology has given children new ways to bully – sometimes called cyberbullying. Doug and Mike talk with Warren Blumenfeld, an associate professor in curriculum and instruction at Iowa State, about cyberbullying and other bullying trends in this month’s Science of Parenting radio program podcast.

From the The Science of Parenting blog

Related resources

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying, or bullying via technology and/or the internet, has become the newest way to make fun of, ridicule, and victimize others. In a 2010 study of 12 to 18 year olds, researchers found that 83% of teens use a cell phone, 78% send text messages, 50% use Facebook, 38% use Myspace, 46% email, and 41% instant message. With this wide variety of technology being used by today’s youth, it’s no wonder that bullying has found its way from the playground to cell phones and computers.

It’s no secret that physical bullying is more common among boys, while relational bullying (bullying with words) is more common among girls. Given this fact, it might not be surprising to you that cyberbullying is most common among girls, although it happens to both girls and boys. Over 20% of teens report having experienced cyberbullying. The most common forms are hurtful comments, rumors, or threats online. Other forms include text messages, pictures, videos, or websites created about the victim. If not dealt with and solved, cyberbullying can have serious negative consequences for children. As a parent, it’s important to know how to handle such a situation.

To help your child stay safe from cyberbullying, here are some helpful tips:
• Keep your home computer in a location where it can be easily viewed. If your children know that you can see what they’re doing, they are more likely to use the computer for appropriate behaviors only.
• Become familiar with social networking and communication technologies. If your child tells you that he’s doing homework, but he’s actually instant messaging, would you know the difference? In order to keep your children safe, you have to know a little about these technologies: know what they look like, know what they’re used for, and know the lingo.
• Talk with your children about cyberbullying. Encourage your kids to come to you if anyone says or does anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
• Consider installing filters or blockers to keep your child from visiting dangerous chat rooms or from using the Internet in other harmful ways.
• Set guidelines for cell phone use, then enforce and monitor these expectations.
• Set guidelines for computer and internet use, along with specific consequences if these guidelines are not met.
• Have a plan of how you will handle the situation if your child is being cyberbullied. Stay calm and take steps toward finding a solution.
• Inform school administrators right away. Inquire about bullying preemption programs.
• Keep evidence of the cyberbullying. Save the messages, pictures, or videos.
• Spend time with your child to let him/her know how much you love and support him/her.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Bullying

Bullying is one topic parents hope they never have to encounter. Unfortunately, it happens all too in often, in a variety of different forms. Approximately 75% of children report that they have experienced bullying. The most common type of bullying is verbal bullying, followed by physical bullying and indirect bullying (spreading rumors, excluding others). Cyberbullying is also becoming more common; however, I’ll save that for the topic of next week’s blog.

Sadly, children do not always tell their parents that they’re being bullied. As a result, it’s important for parents to look for signs that their child is being bullied. Your child may be experiencing bullying if he/she:

  • Takes a different or long way to/from school
  • Doesn’t like going to school; fakes illnesses to stay home from school
  • Doesn’t care about schoolwork
  • Has a loss of appetite
  • Doesn’t have friends
  • Has troubles sleeping, including nightmares
  • Comes home from school with items that are torn, broken, or missing
  • Acts nervous, stressed out, grumpy, or sad, especially when getting home from school
  • Comes home with bruises, cuts, scratches

If you think your child may be experiencing bullying, the first step is to sit down and talk with them. Ask questions about bullying, be a good listener, stay calm, and show concern for your child. If your child is experiencing bullying, here are some important steps to support you child in handling the situation.

  • Find out more information about the bullying situation – Who, what, when, where, how often
  • Explain to your child that you will likely have to tell others about the situation, in order to protect him/her
  • Notify school faculty, and other adults who may be present when the bullying is taking place
  • Explain that if the incident happens again, your child needs to report it to an adult; Remind your child that this is telling someone about a dangerous situation, NOT tattling
  • Take photographs and keep a log of any evidence from the bullying incidents – Bruises, cuts, torn or damaged items, harassment notes
  • Brainstorm and role play strategies for handling the bullying situations
  • Help your child make friends by getting him/her involved in an organization
  • Spend time with your child, let them know they are loved and supported

Click here for more information on bullying.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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