There is a growing pressure on our children by the society to have the latest iPhone, tablet, music device, play station etc. For many of these innocent kids, bullying does not stop outside the gates of the school but continues even when they are at home. It could be happening right now on social media or via text messages.
You’re fortunate if your child approaches you and tells you they are being cyberbullied. Most parents get to know about the injustice either by monitoring their kids or when the damage has been done. But we are not here to talk about that, we are here to talk about what parents must do after finding that out. What should be the right course of action? I am sure you would be pretty angry at the kids who have been hurting your child and probably have questioned their parents too on what kind of kids they are raising. You need to put all rage aside and take the right approach to deal with the situation.
- Appreciate them: If your child approached you, appreciate them for reaching out to you. Reassure them now that they have told you, you will be able to help them out. Do not take their phone or any other gadget away. It shouldn’t appear as a punishment because, to be honest, it wasn’t their fault.
- Ask some questions: I am sure you must have lots of questions you want to ask your child but take one thing at a time. The most important question to ask is how long the cyberbullying has been happening. Ask them if they have any messages related to the bullying. In case you find out they were using a website they shouldn’t have, don’t get angry. That’s a lesson for some other day. Right now, you need to resolve the problem at hand.
- Let them know it’s not their fault: You might have to do that again and again. Reassure your child it wasn’t their fault. Some people feel they have brought bullying upon themselves. If that’s how they feel, remind them that even lots of celebrities are bullied online. They must understand that they are not being bullying because they are weak or because the person bullying them is strong.
Encourage them to look confident even if they don’t feel like it. Role-play different bullying scenarios and help your child practice responses. Sometimes, people say nasty things because they want to upset you or bring out a certain reaction. Explain to your child that if they give the impression that they are not bothered, the bully is likely to stop.
Things you must do
- Your child might have some special requests regarding the issue. Listen to these requests and come up with a plan accordingly.
- Take screenshots of the abusive comments to keep as evidence. You might need them later on.
- Once you have created a backup of all the evidence, encourage your kid to delete the photos or messages so that they are not reminded of the bullying.
- Let them know they can also block the person online to limit the interactions.
- Make sure your child does not react to the bullying. This could make the situation worse.
Things to avoid
This is a very sensitive issue for your child and you wouldn’t want to make it worse. There are some things parents must avoid when it comes to tackling with the bullying situation. For instance, don’t demand to see the teacher, the bully or his parents right away. This is the very reaction your child must be afraid of because he might believe it can make bullying worse for him.
Don’t ever tell your child to hit back or shout at the bully. This doesn’t solve the problem. In case your child is under-confident, this will add to their stress and anxiety.
If your child pulled out the courage to tell you about their problem, never shut them out. Don’t tell them to ignore it or say it’s part of growing up. You don’t want to give the impression that bullying has to be tolerated. In fact, you want to prepare them to face the bullies and make it stop. You should be setting them up for being confident and dealing with such problems.
Get support from the school
All schools are legally responsible to have an anti-bullying policy. So don’t take the matters in your hands right away, approach the school authorities. Here are some tips to follow in this regard:
- List down all the facts related to the incident. You must know what happened, when the bullying accrued, who was involved, and if it is was a one-time event or a series of events.
- Never arrive at the school all of a sudden. Always make an appointment with the class teacher or other concerned authorities.
- Your actions must make it clear that you are seeking the help of the school in finding a solution to this problem.
- Don’t accuse the school. Usually, parents and schools are the last ones to find out about the bullying. It’s always friends first, then the parents and finally, the school.
You now have an obligation to make your child feel secure at home too because cyberbullying can happen anytime. Like mentioned above, don’t take their smartphone or gadgets away. Also, don’t try to restrict their outdoor activities just because you want to protect them. You don’t want to make your child feel that they have made a mistake by reach out to you. It’s ok to monitor and supervise in such a situation but don’t get paranoid. Depending on how badly the event impacted the mental wellbeing of your child, arrange an appointment with the school’s counselor or a therapist for them.