Cyberbullying is becoming a digital epidemic in America and kids with learning disabilities are much more likely than their peers to be victims .
Although up to 87% of teens using the internet have witnessing cyberbullying behavior in 2014,most don’t know what to do if they become victims themselves.
Previous articles in this series have explained what cyberbullying is and shown what signs to look for in a child that might be being bullied.
Even if your child has not been bullied online, we feel that it is important that both you and your child know how to work together to handle a cyber bully.
In this article we go over some effective tips and guidelines to help both parents and children deal with cyberbullying AND include an easy to read and printable infographic that can be downloaded showing what kids can do.
What Parents can Do
First and foremost try to talk to your student about cyber bullying.
Kids know when online behavior is mean, scary or uncomfortable but often don’t know how to react to it.
Often, young people can feel embarrassed and ashamed about bullying and so it is important for them to know that it is nothing to hide and that you are always there for them.
What to Say if your Child has been Cyberbullied
Don’t talk about taking away access to the Internet or cell phones
The fear of losing these privileges is the number one reason, according to the National Council of Public Health, that over 50% of the victims of cyber bullying never report it to parents.
Kids, especially teens, live through the internet and their smartphones, and the internet is not only a powerful learning tool for LD students, it is often a major source of positive social contact and entertainment.Your student’s cell phone provides a way of reaching you, emergency resources like the police, emergency medical and keeping in touch with friends. The fear of losing this access might easily prevent them from telling you that they’re being harassed.
Reassure them that no matter what happens, you’ll do your best to make sure these privileges are kept.
Remind them that they are not alone
The effects of cyber bullying can be much more devastating if your student feels isolated.Being bullied in any fashion is a terrible experience and it is made worse if the victim feels as if they are on their own.
Over 1,000,000 students on Facebook alone in 2011 were victims of cyber bullying and the numbers are climbing! Cyberstalking and cyberbullying have even had special laws passed in many states to make this kind of activity illegal.
Let them have a say
While you can insist that doing nothing is simply not an option, giving children a voice in how you both will deal with cyberbullying can give them back a sense of power over their lives.
If your child is having a hard time making a decision, you can help narrow the choices down and ask them to pick one. For example:
You can both make a private appointment with a guidance counselor to discuss the problem confidentially;
As a parent you can contact the bully or bullies parents and explain to them that if the harassment or bullying behavior does not stop immediately-you will hold them accountable and take legal action.
You can contact the police for them
If you find it hard to talk to your child about this issue
Try asking some indirect questions that will lead into a more substantial discussion :
What is the funniest thing you have seen online? What is the saddest thing that you have seen online?
“Have you seen this article/video about these kids bullying this other kid online?” What can they do? What would you do ?
If you suspect your child is being bullied but find it really hard to start a conversation:
or they won’t open up to you at all, there are a number of national and local hotlines which deal with teens specifically on these types if issues :
- Boys and Girls Town National Hotline (1 800 448 3000)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1 800 273 8255)
- Youth America Hotline (1800 968 8454)
How to Help your Child if They are Being Cyberbullied
Warn them not to fight fire with fire
Fighting back is a natural reaction to being harassed.
But the old chestnut of standing up to bullies doesn’t really apply to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullies thrive off the reactions of their victims. If a victim fights back aggressively, their reactions are often publicized and used to further humiliate and harass them.
Save The Evidence
Cyberbullying is hard to prove!
The offensive text or picture often gets removed from the original page, leaving no evidence behind.
By collecting evidence as it happens, such as emails, texts, chatlogs and screenshots, your child is gathering important proof of cyberbullying that they can then report to school authorities,web and cell phone Service Providers or if necessary, the police.
Record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred.
Save and print screenshots, emails, and text messages
It may be embarrassing, but without evidence proving that cyberbullying is taking place can be a lot harder. Although cyberbullies may think they are anonymous, they can be found.
Help change phone numbers, email or social media accounts
Advise your child to block or delete any person who is cyberbullying from their social media accounts, IM or email and, if necessary, close those accounts.
Students can, for example, always open a new Facebook account using a different name, such as using their first and middle name.
If cyberbullying is happening on Instant Messaging or some other place online that requires a ‘buddy list’, you can block certain users based upon their username, or delete them if they are in your buddy list.
If there is a profile that was created about your child without his or her knowing about it, contact the company who runs the site to have the profile or language taken off.
If your child is receiving harassing phone calls or text messages , don’t hesitate. Help them change their number and make sure they only hand it out to trusted friends.
Nobody wants to be thought of as a tattletale, but cyberbullying can be a crime that hurts people and cannot be ignored. Kids, especially those with learning disabilities, might be uncomfortable when dealing with school authorities and so may need encouragement and/or a parental ally.
Report Cyberbullying to Online Service Providers
Cyberbullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites and internet service providers.
Reporting can done to the HELP section of the Social Media Network and the Internet Service Provider. In some cases, the providers can look into the bullying incident to uncover an anonymous bully and may also be able to take down offensive posts.
Report Cyberbullying to the School.
If the bully is another student , evidence can be brought to the school, such as to a counselor or the principal. In many states, schools are required to address cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policy.
Report Cyberbullying to Law Enforcement
Cyberbullying that involves the activities below is considered criminal behavior and can be reported to the police or the local cybercrime unit where you live:
- Threats of violence
- Child pornography, sexual harassment of a minor or sending sexually explicit messages or photos
- Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where theywould expect privacy
- Stalking and hate crimes
Remember: sexual exploitation and physical threats require immediate action!
Helping Kids Avoid Cyberbullying
Your child may not yet be the victim of cyberbullying, but you can help them take steps to reduce the chances of being bullied:
Use Privacy Settings to Make Photos and Profiles Private
Everyone loves social media and sharing photos and videos has never been easier. Unfortunately, what’s meant to be private can become public in the blink of an eye.
Limiting the number of individuals who can view their profiles or access their private information reduces the risk of bullying significantly. Encourage your child to set their privacy settings so that only trusted friends or people they know can view their accounts or contact them.
Remind them that the internet is public and posts can be forever.
Kids, and some adults, simply don’t understand that what they post is often around for a long time.
Many are unaware or oblivious that future employers and universities often take a look at applicant’s social media history and can consider their posts/profiles as part of the admissions or hiring process.
As the police say, what you say can and will be used against you.
A good rule of thumb is to tell your kids to only post what they would say or show to a room full of strangers and in front of their grandparents.
Remind them to keep personal information personal!
Explain to your kids that they should never give out their address, telephone number, bank information, embarrassing photographs/videos or passwords to anyone online.
Giving personal information to anyone, even their best friend, is potentially like posting a bad report card on a telephone pole outside the school.
Help Avoid Risky Apps
We live in an app driven world. There’s an app for everything, from ordering a pizza to keeping up with the stock exchange. Chances are if you looked at your child’s phone, you’d see a whole bunch of apps you won’t recognize .
Unfortunately many parents may not really know what apps their kids are using and can be a little behind the times in terms of technology.No sooner has a parent deciphered Facebook or Twitter or Instagram than his or her children have migrated to the latest frontier.
At the same time many teens have no idea how risky apps can be, even if their friends are using them.
Some of the worst apps and games look like innocent ways to keep in touch with friends but can turn into venues for inappropriate behavior and cyberbullying. Certain messaging apps designed to keep kids in touch can be used as a means of sexual harassment.
Current lists of potentially harmful apps are relatively easy to find online, especially if you Google “dangerous apps for kids.” For example:
Explain why they need to be careful asking others for ranks or a like.
Many social media pages allow users to rank each other with likes, ranks or votes. Kids can see this as a way of becoming popular online and may end up posting photos that should have remained private in exchange for an affirmation fix.
Negative comments, harassment and unwanted attention or sharing from other users may follow, and very quickly those private thoughts or photos have become public. In addition to explaining the dangers, affirm them and remind them often of how much they mean to you and the people who truly know them and love them.
Find out what your LD student’s school’s policy is regarding bullying and cyber bullying. If the school does not have a policy, it is time for you to insist that the school address the issue. A number of social service agencies and your school’s counselors can prevent cyber bullying by educating all members of the faculty, parents and students on the dangers of cyber bullying to both the bullies and the victims.
What Kids can Do
To help kids learn to effectively react if they’re being cyberbullied, we’ve made an easy to read and printable infographic that should help.
Click here to download What to do if You're Being Bullied Online (as a PDF), or scroll below to view it.