It’s never easy to deal with the knowledge that your child has been bullying others online. You might be feeling upset or angry with your child at first, and this is a normal response, but you should try to remain calm when confronting them about the issue.
The Difference Between Bullying in Real Life and Cyberbullying
Many children who cyberbully another child do not realise the extent of their actions. Unlike bullying in real life, cyberbullying is much easier to get drawn into without realising, so it’s likely that your child might not fully understand the real-life impact of their online actions.
This isn’t to say that you should ignore the situation, however. If your child has been involved in cyberbullying, it is essential that you sit down together and discuss the many ways in which their actions are wrong and should be stopped immediately.
Cyberbullying is a serious issue, and your child needs to understand the serious impact that their online actions can create. Likewise, it is important that you understand the reasons why your child has bullied another person on the internet.
Establish the Facts
The first thing you should do is try to establish the facts around the incident. The best way to approach this is to ask your child to give you their own full explanation of the events. If you ask them to do this first, it will give them no opportunity to manipulate their version of events to fit the image they think you have in your head.
Remain calm when approaching the subject with your child. Avoid immediate accusations as this will only make your child uncooperative and unwilling to work with you to get to the root cause of the problem. It is always the best to stay on neutral ground until you have given your child a chance to establish the facts with you.
Keep an Open Mind
Try not to turn a blind eye to the fact your child might have been aware that they were hurting another person when they began cyberbullying. We know it isn’t easy to think about your child as someone with the potential to bring harm to others, but keep an open mind and remember that there is always a reason why they would have chosen to do so.
Is Your Child Okay?
Consider external factors. Are there issues your child is dealing with in other areas of life right now that might be causing this sudden behaviour change? Ask your child how they are feeling – is there anything they are upset about? Are they distressed or angry about something in their life?
Whatever reason your child gives you for why they chose to cyberbully, make sure to treat the situation and their answers seriously. Do not allow your child to pass the blame on to someone else. It is important that they accept responsibility for their own actions in order to show you that they have understood where they went wrong.
Be sure to give a full explanation about the blurred line between uploading and sharing content because they think that it is funny, versus the potential to cause harm or offence to another person. It is important to teach children that online bullying is totally unacceptable and that it could lead to them getting into trouble with the school or police. They could also lose friends because of their behaviour online.
Confronting the Truth
The most important thing is to help the child to learn from what has happened. Do not get upset, do not ignore the issue, do not condone the bullying, and do not deflect the blame onto someone else.
You might think that it’s a good idea to punish your child for their actions by taking away the devices they use to access the internet. Actually, this is not a good idea. Removing a child’s access to their devices could make the situation worse and might lead to them finding alternative ways of getting online, which might not be safe for them.
If the incident has taken place with a classmate or someone your child knows from school or a club, it is a good idea to approach your child’s teacher or group leader with your concerns and explain the issue to them, if they do not already know about it.
Our e-Safety for Parents online training course gives a great overview of online safety, written for parents who want to be extra vigilant in ensuring their children’s safety on the internet. You can view our course by clicking here.