What to Teach Your Children About Online Bullying

Online Bullying

Online bullying or cyberbullying involves threatening, humiliating, or harming another person through use of digital technology, such as online social media, text messages, or email.

Jane Swan, the principal of an online public charter school, offers the following advice to help parents teach their children about online bullying.

Educate Them

An initial hurdle in addressing online bullying (i.e., cyberbullying, cyber harassment, and cyber abuse) stems from just understanding what it is —  and what it can look like.

As such, Ms. Swan recommends talking to youth about what they may encounter in online and mobile interactions, and when it should be considered a problem.

This can be as simple as making clear to them that behavior that would unacceptable off-line, does not become acceptable just because it is happens online.

Ms. Swan refers to this notion as “netiquette.”

Importantly, Ms. Swan emphasizes the importance of teaching children that they too bear responsibility in not perpetrating cyber abuse:

Before your child becomes active on social media, teach him or her how to be respectful online.

They shouldn’t post words or photos that they wouldn’t share in person.

The importance of this lesson is underscored when one considers recent studies finding that most online bullying is peer-on-peer.

Monitor Them and Recognize the Signs

Ms. Swan also recommends that parents monitor their child’s social media pages and pay attention to any signs of trouble—both online (such as negative posts or comments from others appearing on your child’s social media pages) or offline (such as signs of severe anxiety in teenagers or other behavioral/mood changes, like sadness or trouble sleeping).

Take Action

Finally, in the event your child encounters difficulties stemming from online bullying, Ms. Swan underscores the importance of making sure your child has a clear idea of what to do.

In particular, she notes, children should understand the importance of telling a responsible adult.

From there, a crucial first step is reporting the events to appropriate entities, including social media platforms and (if applicable) school authorities.