Five Ways Parents Can Prevent Cyberbullying
In 2021, children are more likely to be victims of online bullying than ever before. Cyberbullying can wreak emotional devastation on your child’s mental health and manifest in real-life spaces, such as school or work. By staying informed and taking an active role in monitoring their child’s online behavior, parents can reduce the likelihood of cyberbullying events and ultimately bolster their child’s online independence.
Create a space for honest conversations with your child.
Regularly check in with your child about their day-to-day activities. Encourage them to speak openly about their feelings, especially with topics they may be working through themselves. To get the conversation started, pose open-ended questions that allow your child to articulate their own opinions, such as, “How do you feel about…?” or “What are your thoughts on…?” Set aside time for in-depth discussion and validate your child’s feelings, including sadness, frustration, or anxiety.
Practice active listening.
Listen to rather than lecture your child during in-depth conversations. Active listening involves reflecting your child’s emotions without judgment and encouraging them to continue. Allow your child to lead the conversation and show that you are fully focused on them. Ask your child follow-up questions, summarize their points, and have them provide clarification when necessary. Active listening shows your child that they can expect positive emotional reinforcement when openly communicating with you.
Teach your child the rules of internet safety.
Talk to your child about their interactions online. Do they know the people they talk to through the screen? What kind of information do they share with people they don’t know in real life? Teach your child that some personal details should stay personal for their own safety: whatever we share online with strangers, we should be prepared to share with the world. Let your child know that you are actively monitoring their online activity and interactions.
Reinforce your child’s self-confidence.
People online should treat us with the same respect we deserve in real life. Teach your child to seek emotional validation from themselves and their loved ones, not strangers on the internet. Discuss boundaries in friendships with your child and model those boundaries for them. Work to develop your child’s everyday emotional skills, like decision-making and problem-solving. The more confident your child feels in their own set of values, the more they will adhere to those values online.
Watch out for the signs of cyberbullying.
Your child may be struggling with cyberbullying if they seem depressed, start avoiding certain activities, spend less time online, or attempt to hide their screens from you. If you notice a sudden shift in your child’s behavior, start an upfront conversation and provide support. If online abuse becomes a serious issue for your child, save screenshots for your records and contact your child’s school or your local police.