Technology is a wonderful thing. The advent of the Internet, smartphones, and social media has made it possible for people to communicate with each other from almost every corner of the globe.
Unfortunately, there are those who choose to use this incredible ability for nefarious means, such as harassing and infringing on the rights of others. As a parent, you need to be aware of the fact that your child will likely face instances of cyberbullying at some point or another in their lives, and you need to know how to deal with it if the situation arises. If you know how to handle cyberbullies and other online harassment, you’ll feel much more at ease whenever your child connects to the web.
Teach Them Not To Respond
Just like real-world bullies, cyberbullies thrive on getting their victims to play back at them. Make sure your children know to never respond to an individual sending threatening or otherwise harmful messages to them electronically.
First of all, your children should know to never stoop to the bully’s level. If they do, they run the risk of saying something threatening themselves, and being just as guilty of cyberbullying as the person bothering them. Instill in your children the idea that they are better than that, and that the strongest action they can take is to simply ignore someone’s attempts at bullying them.
Secondly, by ignoring the cyberbully, your child takes all the power away from the hurtful individual. If your kid is not willing to engage with the person on the other end of the exchange, then nothing the bully says will affect them.
However, they absolutely should save every word their bully sends them. Usually, there will be no shortage of evidence here, as the bully will continue sending messages – even if your child doesn’t say anything back – with the hopes that something they say will trigger a response.
Though copying and pasting these messages is efficient, it also may not “hold up” as evidence if the incident goes far enough to warrant legal action. The best course of action is to take screenshots of the actual messages, whether on the phone or computer, creating a true replication of the messages in question.
You should also document the time, date, and device on which the messages were received. Once again, if the harassment continues, you want to have as much evidence as possible in order for the authorities to be able to act on your complaint.
As an adult, you’re likely to take any threat to your child’s safety seriously. But you should also be able to assess the threats being made, and decide whether the person on the other end is truly putting your child in danger or not.
This isn’t to say that any amount of cyberbullying is OK. But there is a difference between one-off instances in which a classmate of your child called them a name, and ongoing harassment and threats of violence. Depending on the circumstances, you should know how to react and who to inform.
Identify the Perpetrator
There are numerous ways to figure out who the person on the other end of the line is, even if they try to mask their true identity.
If the cyberbully has been texting or calling your child, you can use reverse phone lookup services to at least discover where the phone in question is being used, as well as what service provider the user has.
You can also use Google to search for screen names and determine if the person on the other end is actually pretending to be someone else.
Still, you may not be able to figure out who the perpetrator is, in which case you should definitely report the suspicious behavior.
Depending on the severity of the incident(s), there are a number of channels you can go through.
The first step is simply to report the abuse to the service the bully is utilizing, be it Facebook, Snapchat, Kik, or Gmail. These service providers take cyberbullying seriously, as they want their users to have as enjoyable an experience as possible when using them.
If you know who the child is, you might begin by informing their parents of the misdeeds. In less severe cases, this may be all that is necessary to combat instances of cyberbullying.
If the child attends the same school or district as your child, you may want to involve teachers and administration in order to curb possible instances of physical bullying that may occur on school grounds. Furthermore, school faculty are trained professionals, as well as mandated reporters. If they are witnesses to true bullying and abuse, they are required by law to report it to police.
If it comes to it, you might have to report the abuse to police on your own. By doing so, you allow them to complete a thorough investigation into the matter. At the very least, they will contact the perpetrator and warn them to cease their deeds. If the bullying continues, the police will be forced to take further action,
To prevent any of this from happening in the first place, or to prevent it from happening again, go through your children’s online accounts and ensure that their privacy settings are as restrictive as possible. Set their accounts so that those not approved or “friended” can’t view their profile or send them messages.
If it comes to it, you may want to delete your child’s social media accounts altogether. Though they may not be happy with the decision, they need to know their safety comes first, no matter what.