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 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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