What is the best way to encourage children to report cyberbullying even if it’s happening between friends?
As parents, one of the most important messages we give to children and young people when they are experiencing any form of harmful behaviour is to report it. But for such a simple message, it isn’t always successful.
When I was bullied at school, there were two overwhelming feelings: shame because I thought I was the problem, so I couldn’t report it to anyone, and fear because some of those doing the bullying were so-called friends and I worried about what would happen if I ‘snitched’ on them.
But unlike when I was at school and could go home to get away from the bullying, modern-day bullying can be relentless, particularly if it’s online.
Children and young people don’t always realise the immediate and long-term consequences of bullying behaviour on others, such as the impact on self-esteem and confidence. It can affect schoolwork, exams, relationships and much more, and the overwhelming emotional feelings can stay with a person for many years.
When friends are involved, it’s often seen as banter rather than bullying, so I find one of the best strategies when talking about behaviours such as this is to discuss empathy, putting others in the shoes of the person who is being bullied. This helps others to understand the overwhelming feelings of shame, fear, reduced confidence and more. How would they feel if this was happening to them? Would they expect their friends to do something about it and if so, what?