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Digital Threat: Talking To Your Child About Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying: The Greatest Threat to Children’s’ Emotional Stability

This guest blog was written by Katherine Rundell. Her contact information is below. The blog was first posted in February 2022. 


Cyberbullying is one example that can have devastating effects on young people. Cyberbullying occurs when a bully targets a victim using online communication methods such as texting or social media posts to threaten, abuse, or degrade someone. With its use of technology, cyberbullying has gained more attention and notoriety in recent years. It’s a crime that doesn’t restrict itself to school or the playground.

What fuels cyberbullying? Unlike traditional bullying, it doesn’t require physical strength or a face-to-face meeting. Anyone with an Internet connection and a digital device like a smartphone, computer or tablet can be a cyberbully. There are no specific hours, and it can happen around the clock, whether through social networking sites or instant messaging.

When kids are electronically (cyber) bullied, it can be hard for parents to detect, until it becomes an overwhelming issue. A cyberbully can be a close friend or a faceless entity, a single force, or a group of people. Often kids and teens don’t share their online interactions with their parents, until these interactions become unbearable and even then they may say nothing. There are so many social media sites your kids may use… Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine, Twitch, YouTube, and online gaming platforms. It is hard to keep up with them all!

Bullying is unfortunately still a prevalent feature of our children’s lives and wherever it takes place, in the real world or in virtual space, it needs to be uprooted. Cyberbullying is especially insidious as it can often take place in ways that are hidden from parents, and infiltrate children’s’ lives at every step. With the proliferation of smartphones and other devices, cyberbullying can impact a child’s sense of safety and security everywhere they go, following them from school to home through the interconnected web.

Talking to your child about cyberbullying means acknowledging the specific emotional and psychological harms that cyberbullying entails. For parents, the good news is there are many steps you can take to protect your child. Talking about digital boundaries and creating space for openness with your child can ensure they’re safe from the effects of cyberbullying.

1) Creating The Space For Discussion

Creating a safe space for discussing difficult issues with your child can be challenging - often it’s hard to know how to approach topics. Children rarely want to acknowledge any victimization, so they’re often reluctant to be engaged in these conversations at first. One of the significant problems that’s unique to cyberbullying is that it happens in secret, private, virtual spheres, so ideally, as a parent, you can preempt any problematic digital interactions by creating a space for the discussion of these issues.

Try asking your child neutral questions at first - if they have heard of cyberbullying, and if anybody they know has been affected by it. By introducing cyberbullying as a topic without personalizing it at first you create the space for your child to feel comfortable discussing issues with you when they do arise.

At school, too, there should be a space for classes to become aware of the problem of cyberbullying, what to do about it, and how to prevent it. Ask your child about what measures are being taken in school to discuss and end cyberbullying.

2) Cyber Rules And Boundaries

The internet can often be perceived as a lawless place, where the rules and taboos of society are easily broken thanks to the digital barriers in place. For this reason, it’s important to talk about etiquette and behavior in digital spaces with your child. Teach your child that the internet isn’t an escape from real life - it’s an integral part of real life and the same rules and boundaries apply. Children should also know to respect others’ virtual privacy, not playing with their phones and other devices.

By building these ground rules into conversations with children, not only will they behave better themselves. It also gives them the tools to assess when others transgress, and to come and speak to you about issues they have online.

Schools should also help to teach cyber accountability and responsibility, especially with the increasing amount of computing classes, and classes of all subjects being held online.

The site internetmatters.org collects loads of great resources from leading internet giants on cyberbullying for parents. Digital cyberbullying

3) Cyber Safety

Whilst discussing the importance of etiquette and behavior online, parents can also outline how children can interact with the web safely. Don’t assume that rules of cyber safety are obvious to your children and take the time to talk about building secure passwords and to emphasize that they should never be revealed to anyone. It’s also important that children understand not to reveal details of themselves online to protect their identity. Your child’s school should corroborate this in their lessons, too.

McAfee themselves have some good safety tips to offer.

4) Treat Them Like Adults

When it comes time to have difficult conversations with your child, treating them as an adult is an important principle. Although they may not always act with maturity, showing your child that you respect their opinions will encourage them to give weight to your own thoughts and suggestions.

When your child has cyberbullying and cyber security lessons at school, make sure that the resources they are using contain the right kind of information, relevant to what they are doing online. After all, they’re not just using the internet to play browser games anymore – they now have easily around 20 accounts and passwords for various sites, some of which may be important for their schoolwork. So, make sure it is useful, and not just recycling the same old tips.

Alienating your child by babying them through important conversations will make them more vulnerable online. Treat them like an adult to ensure they can come to you with any problems they face and trust they’ll be treated with respect.

Cyberbullying Research Center’s site offers many brilliant PDFs about specific cyberbullying topics, which you can read yourself, or with your child.

5) Empathy

The world may have changed a lot since you were young, but it’s important to try to understand your child’s challenges through their own eyes and the particular cultural lens with which they see the world. When it comes to technology, don’t just come to conclusions. Act with empathy and you’ll build a strong relationship with your child, keeping them safe from cyber bullying.

Wrapping Up

The world seems to change almost faster than we can keep up, but parents can’t lose hope in the face of growing digital challenges. Although the virtual world your child faces may be unrecognizable from your own childhood, the steps you can take to protect them - through boundaries, honesty, empathy, and communication, are timeless values.

Katherine Rundell is an editor and writer at Law Essay Help and Academized Reviews. She is a trained classroom counsellor and supports schools to build child protection policies in response to changing digital challenges. She is also a proofreader at Boomessays writing service.

Blog posted on this website by Steven Mintz, aka "Ethics Sage" on January 6, 2022.  You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.