Your child is being bullied online: harassed, picked on, maybe even physically threatened. You’ve always taught them to stand up to bullies, but what does that look like online? How do they ‘stand up’ on a smartphone?
‘Standing up’ sometimes means shutting it down—blocking the bullies, deleting accounts; the digital equivalent of selling up and starting a fresh life in a new town.
And what about reporting the bullying? Is this going to create a ‘mountain out of a mole-hill’ and make things even worse? Or is reporting online abuse teaching your child when to say ‘enough’ and how to insist on basic respect for themselves? It’s hard to decide, especially when your child is suffering and you are scared of doing the wrong thing. While none of these are easy calls to make, the way you deal with bullying can be just as instructive to your kids as the choices you’ll eventually make.
So, above all: try to stay calm! The online bullying may have been going on for some time before you found out. You might also be horrified at what you’ve discovered about your child and their friends. Try not to let the feelings and issues overwhelm you. Instead, show your child that you can tackle this stuff together like any other problem or relationship difficulty. Remember that when you talk to your child, you have control over the kind of language you use and the way you confront things, so work to be the best, most reasonable self you can be. Put your own distress to one side and reassure your kids that they are not the first people to be bullied and that there is always a way forward.
Sometimes your kids won’t tell you about online harassment because they also get a lot of their pleasure and enjoyment online. At a time when they are already feeling low, they don’t want to be blamed, or banned from something that gives them solace and comfort, so the ‘I’m going to pull the plug on that thing!’ option is not what they want to hear from you. Discuss the options that you do have like:
At the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner there’s an online complaints system for serious cyberbullying that can help with your decision-making. As a parent, and for your child, it’s worth remembering: there’s always a way out, and you are not alone.
Report cyberbullying through the Office website
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