Ditch the Label research revealed that up to 7 in 10 young people experience cyberbullying before the age of 18 and with the growing amount of online platforms that young people are using, cyberbullying can, unfortunately, come in many different guises; it is something that is totally subjective to the recipient.
This might seem a little overwhelming if you are a parent dealing with a child who has been targeted or who is exhibiting bullying behaviours online and you may be finding it hard to quantify whether or not your child’s experiences fall into this realm.
To clarify, at Ditch the Label we define cyberbullying as “the use of digital technologies with an intent to offend, humiliate, threaten, harass or abuse somebody.”
For Safer Internet Day we have compiled a list of things you can do if your child is being cyberbullied/is cyberbullying as it is often hard to identify the appropriate course of action to take to address and alleviate the situation.
It is important that you don’t patronise your child; make sure that they feel like the power is in their hands and that you will be there to support them every step of the way. A good way of doing this is to ask them how you can help them, or what steps they want to take next.
Make sure they feel comfortable talking about their experiences and that they can confide in you without fear of being reprimanded. For example, if you threaten to limit the time they spend online as a preventative measure, you are essentially punishing them for being honest with you – this may mean they do not seek your support in the future when something is wrong.
Spend time with them, make sure they know they are not alone and try to do things that will boost their self-esteem and confidence. It’s important that they still look after their health and maintain a good diet and exercise regime.
Their safety is your priority. Make sure your child’s privacy settings are high and remind them not to connect with anybody who they do not know offline. People may not always be who they say they are and they could be putting themselves and those closest to them at risk.
Make sure they are aware that they should never give away personal details like their full name, telephone, address etc to someone they have not met offline either. If somebody is exhibiting threatening behaviour, or has their personal information and is giving them the impression that their safety might be at risk, contact the police immediately.
Keeping a record of all interactions with the perpetrator is very important. Be vigilant from the beginning and ask them to screenshot anything offensive. This is your evidence when reporting it to site administrators/ teachers/ police etc. You have a responsibility to your child and other children – you never know who you might inadvertently be protecting from future abuse by being proactive in documentation.
Together assess how serious the cyberbullying is. If it is light name-calling from somebody that they don’t know, for example, it may be easier to just block that user (see point 4).
You can block and report the perpetrator to site administrators/moderators at any time – remember that these options are in place to support and protect people from abuse. The type of online environment your child is in will determine which course of action is best to take.
If they are experiencing cyberbullying from somebody they go to school or college with, report it to a teacher. It might be appropriate to suggest that a teacher hosts a mediation between the two of them. A mediation can feel scary for those involved but is often incredibly powerful; it is essentially a face-to-face conversation between the person who is being bullied and the person doing the bullying in a controlled, equal environment.
If somebody is threatening them, giving out their personal information or making them fear for their safety, contact the police as soon as you can.
We are one of the largest anti-bullying charities and we are always here for those who have been impacted by bullying. If your child has a question about bullying or needs some advice or general support they can ask us via our website DitchtheLabel.org or they can DM us on Twitter to speak to somebody.
We can’t always identify the exact reason why a child decides to act in this manner but we do know from our research that those who bully others have complex issues that are not being addressed elsewhere. Our data shows that those who bully are likely to have experienced a stressful or traumatic situation in the past 5 years. Examples include their parents/guardians splitting up, the death of a relative or the gaining of a little brother or sister.
Those who have experienced bullying themselves are also twice as likely to go on and bully others. Often it’s used as a defence mechanism and people tend to believe that by bullying others, they will become immune to being bullied themselves. In fact, it just becomes a vicious cycle of negative behaviours.
Bullying can also be a learnt behaviour – after all, none of us are born with the ability to draw or sing a song; nor are we born with the ability to discriminate against someone because of the colour of their skin, ability or any other unique factor. Unfortunately, instead of taking the time to understand or embrace that difference, they act negatively towards the unknown.
At Ditch the Label, we don’t believe that anybody is a ‘bully’ because bullying is a behaviour and not an identity.
One of the first steps we take in helping those that want to stop bullying is to remind them that they are not a ‘bully’ and to stop thinking of themselves as such as it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of subscribing to villainous stereotypes and persecuting those that bully, we look to address why they are behaving in such a way (see point 2).
We must start to encourage those that bully to seek the support they need. In order for them to feel comfortable enough to do that, we need to stop branding people or giving them the impression that they are undeserving of help.
Bullying is one of the biggest issues currently affecting teens and here at Ditch the Label we believe that we can overcome it if we start to think differently about how we approach things. Ceasing to use disempowering labels such as ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ is a great place to start.
Your child simply might not understand the consequences of their actions. To them, the behaviour they are exhibiting may not seem serious, but to the recipient, the impact could be significant. For every 10 people who are bullied, 3 will self-harm, 1 will go on to have a failed suicide attempt and 1 will develop an eating disorder. Additionally, we know that people who have been bullied, on average, achieve lower grades and therefore the bullying could reduce their future career prospects.
Talk to your child about these statistics and ask them to put themselves in the shoes of the person they are bullying. How would they feel if it was happening to them?
Once you have identified the source of your child’s behaviour, it is important to find a productive and positive way in which you can resolve the situation.
If they require it, maybe seek further emotional support from a therapist, counsellor or someone at Ditch the Label. If your child would like advice on how they can stop bullying or if they just need someone to talk to, they can do so via our website DitchtheLabel.org or they can DM us on Twitter to speak to somebody.
If your child knows the person they are bullying offline, you could also suggest a mediation between your child and the recipient. A mediation can feel scary for those involved but is often incredibly powerful; it is essentially a face-to-face conversation between the person who is being bullied and the person doing the bullying in a controlled, equal environment.
If they only know the recipient in an online environment, encourage them to apologise to the user for their actions. Taking responsibility for the hurt they have caused might help them to understand that the gravity of the situation.
Teach your child how to behave properly online; help them to understand that their behaviour in online environments should reflect their offline behaviour – they may have forgotten that there is a person behind the profile.
Remind them to be respectful of other user’s views and opinions and to be courteous and respectful of other people’s feelings when sharing their own.