Article courtesy of
No parent wants to think of their child bullying someone else. But particularly in the digital world, young people who may have never bullied anyone before can get drawn into cyberbullying, sometimes without realising that is what they are doing. It is important to be aware that:
- children might say things online that they wouldn’t dream of saying to someone’s face
- they might take part in a mean conversation on a social network without knowing how the recipient may feel
- most children who have directed a mean or cruel comment to someone online don’t consider it cyberbullying.
If you find out or suspect your child is bullying others, whether face to face or online, you need to talk to them about it immediately. Remain calm and listen to your child rather than blaming or punishing them straight away. There is likely to be a reason why they’re behaving in this way and it’s important to be supportive. These tips may help your conversation:
Try to find out why
Ask them whether there’s a reason why they’re acting this way and try to resolve any issues to stop it happening. Encourage them to think about the impact of what they’re doing on the person involved and how they would feel if they were on the receiving end.
Think about whether there are things your child is exposed to that may be causing negative behaviour, or whether they may be distressed or angry which is causing them to take this out on others.
Explain the severity
Tell them that this is unacceptable behaviour and they could end up losing friends. If they are bullying someone online they could create a digital footprint of their behaviour for everyone to see that will stay online forever. They could even end up being reported to their school or even the police.
Encourage positive behaviour
Talk to them about empathy, respect and compassion for others and lead by example. Tell them to think before they post something online and avoid sharing nasty or cruel messages. Incentivise and praise positive behaviour but think about starting to withdraw some privileges if this doesn’t work.
Share your concerns
Get support from friends and family who may have gone through similar situations. Work with other trusted adults and their teacher to send clear messages to your child about the impact this could have on them and the person or people they’re targeting.
Don’t remove access to technology
With cyberbullying cases, it can be tempting to remove your child’s access to the internet or a device. Instead, show them the damage their bullying can cause and how public their messages are. You can try to limit or monitor access but understand that children often get around any rules you impose, especially if they are angered by them and don’t understand the reasons why. It’s better to keep talking to them about the issue.
Internet Matters is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which aims to help parents keep their children safe online.