As a parent of teenagers in 2020, one of the last things you want to hear is that your child has either been cyberbullied or is the cyberbully. The worst part of this situation is finding out about the matter long after it has already started. Many parents often blame themselves because they feel that they have failed their children when they needed them the most.
Parents are often encouraged to keep open communication with their children so that it becomes easier to address issues as they occur. If you happen to find yourself in the situation of having to address a case of cyberbullying, see our list below of the recommended ways to do so:
- If you suspect your child is being bullied online, try to talk about it with your child away from his/her siblings. Taking them to a private space where they feel comfortable to open-up about the bullying may be a great start.
- Depending on the severity of the case, DO NOT TAKE THE DEVICE AWAY IMMEDIATELY! Rather, have your child change their emails and cell phone numbers immediately, and with you present. This will reinforce the fact that you are a trusted source to help them through this difficult process. Also, this will help put an immediate end to some of the cyberbullying taking place.
- Collect evidence of bullying with your child (screenshot everything), photos, videos, phone call records, emails, text messages. File this evidence to present it as proof when you report this matter to the school and police. It is imperative that your child knows that you believe their case, collecting evidence with them will reinforce this fact. If however you child has been deeply traumatized by the bullying and cannot bear to look at the evidence again, ensure that you tell them that you will collect the evidence swiftly and remember: DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE EVIDENCE THAT YOU SEE ON THEIR SCREENS during this process.
- If you suspect that cyberbullying might have affected your child’s mental health contact a trauma counselor and get help IMMEDIATELY!! Childline South Africa has a 24hour service helpline to help children in distress: 08 000 55 555 – Toll-free from all networks.
- Report cyberbullying to social platforms. Most social media platforms have policies that stand against cyberbullying and abusive content that might be shared on these platforms. For examples, Facebook has a cyberbullying prevention hub – read more about it here.
- Do not be ignorant by simply telling your child to ignore the bullying – IT WILL NOT ‘JUST’GO AWAY!
- Do not blame your child even if their behavior might have triggered the cyberbullying.
- Do not assume that your child is perfect and cannot possibly be a bully – as a parent, it is your responsibility to address the trauma your child has experienced that may have caused him/her to become a cyberbully, and to do it swiftly.
- If the bullying is at its initial stages, do not encourage your child to respond to trolls.