This parent guide provides information about cyberbullying, and includes practical tips on how to help prevent or reduce the impact of cyberbullying, what you should do if your child is targeted or if your child is cyberbullying someone, and how you can help your child stand up to cyberbullying.
It is easy for many adults – whether educators or parents – to focus on the negatives of social media in the lives of teens today. This is understandable, because they are the ones who have to deal with the fallout when adolescents make mistakes online (cyberbullying incidents, sexting cases, electronic dating violence, digital reputation drama, and similar forms of wrongdoing).
In its early days, the internet was often spoken of as a free marketplace of ideas, where everyone’s views and thoughts could be shared and compete on an equal footing. Today it’s an essential tool for accessing information and services, but its value as a vehicle of civic engagement and debate has in many ways declined.
One of the challenges of being a parent in a digital age is (a) keeping up with all the new tools and websites and social media channels our kids may or may not be using and (b) keeping track of new developments and updates within existing tools. Honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m trapped inside a 21st century hamster wheel!
One of the biggest changes in our understanding of bullying over the past few years has been our increased awareness of the important role that witnesses, or bystanders, play in any bullying situation. Research on offline bullying has shown that witnesses can be just as important as targets or perpetrators in determining how a bullying scenario plays out. This is especially relevant in the case of electronic bullying, where witnesses have many more choices in how they might engage: they can choose to be invisible, to join in anonymously, to re-victimize someone by forwarding bullying material – or they can choose to intervene, to offer support to the person being targeted and to bear witness to what they have seen