Parents: What To Do When Your Child Engages In Cyberbullying

If you suspect or learn your child is engaging in cyberbullying:

  • Understand your child could be engaging in harmful behavior that may be against school policy and/or the law.
  • Thoroughly review the incidents.
  • Speak with your child, and explain the harmful impact of cyberbullying. It’s important to discuss the negative impact cyberbullying has online and in real life.
  • Listen to your child’s explanations, discuss expectations, and share potential ramifications if the cyberbullying does not stop.
  • Explain how using the internet leaves a trail, and people engaging in cyberbullying may face ramifications.
  • Consider installing a cyberbullying prevention app. Software to detect and stop cyberbullying is available, and may be helpful in addressing challenges. It can provide youth with an opportunity to pause, reconsider harmful posts, and learn to make better choices.
  • Regardless of which child started, make sure your child understands not to engage or retaliate.

If your child’s negative online behavior continues or escalates, consider seeking professional help and/or programs in impulse management, social media addiction, gaming addiction, etc., as necessary.

It also is essential to remember your child is a child who may make mistakes and needs direction. Your response should depend on the severity of the incident(s) and focus on lessons learned, expectations, and better behavior going forward.

If your child posted harmful or defamatory content, it should be removed.

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Breathe Before You Post

Breathe Before You Post To Avoid Cyber Harassment By Lisa-Michelle KucharzAt some point in your life, you probably witnessed someone who became anxious or angry being asked to breathe deeply to calm himself or slow down a response, whether it was an angry coworker who wanted to share a heated rant in a meeting or an infuriated athlete who missed a key play.

A recent study by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California demonstrated that taking a deep breath informs the body to relax. “You can calm your breathing and also calm your mind,” shared Dr. Mark Krasnow, professor of biochemistry at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

We can apply this research to help people calm their minds before they engage in negative online communication that may have ramifications and cause regret. The key to applying breath as an intervention to alter behavior is to recognize potential pitfalls. Once aware of triggers, a person can acknowledge challenges in real-time and immediately employ deep, controlled breathing to inform his mind to relax.

According to Esther Sternberg, physician and researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, slow, deep breathing calms us down. “When you are stressed, you have your foot on the gas, pedal to the floor. When you take slow, deep breaths, that is what is engaging the brake.”

Like many people, I’ve encouraged youth and adults to “think before they post” but, even though it’s sound advice, it may not be enough in some situations. Thinking alone may not be what we need to distance ourselves from a heat-of-the-moment online disaster. Taking a few slow, deep breaths can calm our minds and give us a chance to address challenges with clarity and serenity. Once calm, we can better think about what to post — or whether or not to post at all.

But, not all breaths are created equal. To fully benefit from the calming effects of breathing, your breath needs to be controlled, slow, and deep. Sit or stand comfortably, and place your hands at your sides, on your thighs, or in a comfortable position. As you slowly inhale, fill the lower portion of your abdomen, then the middle, and then your chest. After a brief pause, slowly exhale the entire breath. Some people suggest making a long shhhhh sound on the exhale for further focus.

After taking a moment to breathe deeply, you should be able to approach online communication calmly and with a level-head. If taking a few breaths weren’t enough, take a few more.

Deep breathing is a great intervention to prevent reacting poorly and engaging in online abuse or cyberbullying, because everyone can learn how to do it, and it’s absolutely free.

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Take Action When Your Child Experiences Cyberbullying

Patch Across New York Take Action When Your Child Experiences Cyberbullying Lisa-Michelle Kucharz

If your child has experienced cyberbullying by another minor, take action and find support:

  • If the acts of cyberbullying include private messages, emails, or text messages, send the responsible account one message, “Stop.”
  • Other than sending “stop” once, do not communicate with the child engaging in cyberbullying, or his or her parents or legal guardian.
  • Instruct your child not to engage or retaliate.
  • Offer your child support, and contact a mental health counselor, as needed.
  • Document all incidents. Create an outline with dates, times, social networks, apps, websites, individuals involved, and known witnesses.
  • If the child engaging in cyberbullying attends the same school or a school in the same district as your child:
    • Contact your child’s principal and request a face-to-face meeting.
    • Review the school’s anti-bullying policy. Be prepared to discuss how the policy was broken or challenges with the policy.
    • Explain the situation fully. Be prepared, and bring organized printouts. Share what happened and how it has impacted your child.
    • Outline your expectations.
    • Listen carefully to the school’s response, and ask questions. Request specific information on how the school will handle the situation.
    • Take detailed notes of the conversation, and summarize your understanding of the meeting and next steps.
    • Follow up with the principal to ensure steps are carried out, and inform the school of additional incidents.
    • Obtain copies of all documentation and reports.
    • Follow up with your child to see if the cyberbullying has stopped.
    • If the cyberbullying continues, consider contacting the school board, superintendent of schools, board of education, state or federal authorities, or law enforcement.
  • If the child engaging in cyberbullying does not attend the same school or a school in your child’s district, contact local law enforcement.
  • If your child is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Otherwise, if the cyberbullying includes threats of violence, contact your precinct or village police.
  • Block the account(s) of the child engaging in cyberbullying on all social networks, apps, and other sites in which your child is active.
  • Report abusive content to social networks, apps, and other sites.
  • Consider blocking mutual acquaintances of the child engaging in cyberbullying.
  • Make sure your child does not share private information online.
  • Do not publicly post information and photos of your child. Change your settings to ensure your posts are private, for connections or friends only.
  • Set up alerts to inform you if content about your child is posted online at google.com/alerts.
  • Find support to help prepare you to work with law enforcement or navigate the judicial process, if necessary.
  • Consider contacting an attorney to explain relevant laws where you reside; advocate on your behalf with law enforcement, the school, or organizations; consider issuing a cease and desist order; or assist with defamatory content removal.
  • Avoid using labels like “bully,” “cyberbully,” or “victim,” when discussing incidents with your child.

You also can reach out to the following resources with or without your child:

Originally posted on the Patch by Lisa-Michelle Kucharz with Jeff Jacomowitz, Patch contributor, on June 6, 2018.

 

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