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How to Prevent Your Child from Becoming a Cyberbully

To help prevent your child from being a cyberbully, know the signs that she may be engaging in this activity online, as well as what to do if she is. Your children becoming the victim of a cyberbully is bad enough, but imagine how hard it would be to consider that your child may be the perpetrator.

Signs that your child may be a cyberbully

Teens who are taking part in online bullying activities may also show changes in behavior, just as victims do. Watch for the following changes in behavior:

  • Your child may stop using the computer when you come into the room or quickly change screens or tabs.

  • A child may sharply increase time spent on the computer or on a smartphone.

  • Your child may appear anxious or secretive when using these devices, and may become anxious, upset, or excessively angry when you take away access.

  • Your child may be spending more time with a new group of friends or perhaps no longer interact publicly with a long-time friend.

Anxiety or secretive behavior around technology may also indicate that your child is being cyberbullied.

Ongoing dialog about cyberbullying

Unlike most parents, digital natives do not know a world free of social media and smartphones, and they may not understand why parents find some online behaviors confusing and disconcerting. Cyberbullying is often a group occurrence with more than one child playing a role and different participants contributing varying levels of bullying behaviors.

By keeping an ongoing dialog with your children, you not only gain insight into this online world in which your kids live, but you may also discover warning signs that your child’s online group is participating in these types of activities. Use these conversations as a chance to discuss the following topics:

  • Help your kids understand the difference between harmless joking and mean, harassing behaviors that others find hurtful.

  • Continue to talk to your kids at every age about what is appropriate to share online, and what is not — including friends’ secrets and personal communications.

  • Teach your children how to stand up to their friends to discourage bullying behaviors online. Help them understand the importance of not standing by while others are being bullied.

  • Help your kids find the words to tell their friends that they refuse to participate in these bullying actions.

  • Encourage your kids to talk to teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents if they don’t feel comfortable coming to you with concerns about their own online behavior, which may have potentially crossed the line into cyberbullying.

Consult with teachers, coaches, and others about cyberbullying

Most children spend less time each day with their parents than they do with their teachers, coaches, and school administrators. To get a clearer picture of your children’s daily lives at school, stay in touch with the adults in their lives for input if you believe that you’re seeing signs of cyberbullying in your child’s life, either from the role of the victim or the bully.

Although you may not see some of the signs that your child is interacting inappropriately through digital communication, your children’s teachers may be seeing these behaviors. For example, your teen may be caught texting in class, spending more time in the computer lab, or arguing with a former friend during school hours or sports practices.

Find out through your children’s teachers, administrators, or guidance counselors whether your children’s school has a cyberbullying policy or speaks to students about cyberbullying.

Ask your child’s school what its policy is regarding cyberbullying.

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