How can my child stand up to cyberbullying?
Understand the bystander's role
While it can take just one teen to start the humiliation or harassment of another, bystanders play an essential role in perpetuating the bullying and giving it power and momentum.
What is a bystander?
- A passive bystander sees cyberbullying taking place, and does nothing. They may receive a copy of a cyberbullying message or photo. They may see an attack taking place on a social network, or they might get asked to vote in an online poll intended to hurt someone. While they don't actively participate, they do nothing to stop it. Their silence gives the bully 'permission' to keep going.
- An active bystander is someone who joins the bullying. Their participation may be no more than forwarding a photo or message to their own friends, which gives the bullies a wider audience and spreads the humiliation. Or it may be encouraging them by 'Liking' things posted on social networks, adding comments that spur them on, or even joining in active bullying once it has begun.
Either way, it's important to talk with your child about their role in cyberbullying, and how, without even knowing it, they may be contributing to another child's harm.
Help your child stand up to cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is going to take everyone working together to help put an end to it — including our children – with us encouraging them to take a stand.
Start by taking the steps below:
- Let them know how bystanders - both passive and active - are part of the problem and help the bully gain more power and hurt the victim.
- Encourage empathy. Help your child put themselves in someone else's position, and to imagine how they would feel. Or how they would feel if this were being said or done to their sibling, cousin, or other friends.
- Encourage them to never forward humiliating messages, texts or photos to their friends, respond or make comments on cyberbullying posts.
- Teach your child to never say something online they wouldn't feel comfortable saying to someone's face.
- Talk to them about how they could be vocal with their friends, informing their friends they won't take part in any cyberbullying.
- If they see cyberbullying on a site like Facebook, show them how they can report it as abusive. Facebook has introduced a Cyberbullying Prevention Hub where users can report a friend is being bullied (or that they've been bullied themselves). Most social networking sites have reporting features built in to flag abusive content. You can help your child by exploring together what they are for the various sites they're active on.
- Let them know that if they know someone is being cyberbullied, they should report it. It could be to you, to a teacher, or to another adult they trust.
- They can also fill out an anonymous letter and drop it off with a teacher or school office.
- If they know the victim personally, they can help the victim by acknowledging what they're going through, and help them to report it to an adult and find support.
- If they are friends with the person doing the cyberbullying, they can send a message saying they're uncomfortable with what they're seeing, and ask them to stop.
- The hardest thing for your child to do may be to take an active stand. But if you can help them feel safe enough to do so, it can have a lot of impact. Using neutral language, they can comment on a bullying post or photo by saying something like: “I'm going to hide this or unfollow this because I think it's hurtful. I encourage others to do the same.” Or, in the case of persistent bullying, “I'm going to block this person, because I think what they're doing is hurtful. I hope other people will do the same.” Many children know cyberbullying is wrong, and will join in saying so once one person has shown the courage to step forward.
- Share any examples you know of where someone taking a stand on someone else's behalf had a positive outcome.
- Empower your child/teen to deal with the situation by providing them with information such as the NeedHelpNow.ca website where they can find information on how to deal with others or how to have pictures/videos removed from the Internet.
Understand why your child might not stand up to cyberbullying
A teen's life is often complicated, with a lot of social pressure from peers and uncertainties facing them as they transition from child to young adult. The reasons they may not get involved in standing up to cyberbullying are also complex.
Here are some of the reasons why bystanders hold back:
- They think it's none of their business.
- They don't want to attract attention to themselves.
- They're afraid they may be mocked by friends for speaking out against it.
- They don't want to be seen as 'tattling.'
- They think telling an adult may make it worse.
- They fear becoming a target of cyberbulling themselves.
- They feel powerless and simply don't know what to do.
- They feel guilty about not standing up for the victim in the past.
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