Sunday, January 14, 2018


Cyber world is exploding with social media, smart phones, hand held devices, watches, toys, ad infinitum.  Children can use electronic devices for entertainment, but they are also wonderful tools to help children learn and explore. However, are young children really ready for all the experiences (good, bad, and ugly) that are in cyber world? Parents tell their children not to talk to strangers and not to go to dangerous places in the real world. Likewise, we need to set some boundaries and educate children on internet safety.

Daniel Sherwin ( shared an article he wrote about an experience his child had with cyber bullying. I’m quite certain many of you with older children have had similar issues, and you’ll appreciate the tools and strategies he suggests to help both children and parents cope.

Behind the Screen: How to Help Your Child Overcome a Cyberbully
It used to be that bullying stopped once the final school bell rang, but with millions of children using a computer or phone each day, bullying has found its way onto the screen in the form of cyberbullying. As a parent, you try your best to protect your child, but you can’t always monitor them online.

After my son and I moved to a new city and I got him enrolled in school, he found himself screen-to-screen with an online bully. Two years later, and we have finally found some strategies that work, as well as helpful ways to ease anxiety both at home and at school. Moving creates many emotional challenges for teens, but cyberbullying shouldn’t be one of them. Here are a few tools to help your child cope.

What is Cyberbullying?

Before you can address cyberbullying, you need to first understand what it is. Cyberbullying refers to bullying that takes place using electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets via communication tools like social media, text messages, and chat rooms. So, what makes this type of bullying different? When it comes to cyberbullying, it can happen 24 hours a day, and it is often posted anonymously and distributed to a large audience of peers, making it difficult to trace back to the source.

While the mean or hateful communication can be deleted, this might not happen until after it has been shared with others. For example, a cyberbully might create a fake social media profile and spread rumors. Even if the account is reported and deleted, others have seen and likely shared it, or taken pictures of it on their phone to share with others. While bullying that happens in person is often one or several isolated events, cyberbullying has a direct impact that can spread long after the initial contact.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open
When my son first approached me about his cyberbully, my first thought was to get the school involved – I wanted to put a stop to it immediately. However, the bully was anonymous, leaving everyone’s hands tied. After taking time to speak with my child, he revealed that a particular student was mean to him at school, even sending text messages and posting hateful comments on his social media page. Cyberbullying can take on various forms, including harassment, blackmail, and humiliation, so make sure you understand the entire story before developing a plan of action.

The first step to ending cyberbullying is to have a conversation with your child. Bullying is usually related to school life, and your child understands both the situation and context better than anyone, so getting their perspective will be helpful in getting to the bottom of things. Resist the urge to react quickly – the goal isn’t revenge. Your ultimate goal should be to help your child heal and restore their self-respect.

Set the Rules
Set rules as a means of protecting your child, not punishing them. The victims of cyberbullying are just that – victims—but by laying down a few rules, you can put some water on the flames. Sit down with your child and learn how the social networks they use work. Review your child’s online presence and help them set up safeguards against cyberbullying by utilizing privacy settings and reporting tools. While it is tempting to ban computer usage altogether, resist this urge. Taking away electronic privileges not only sends the message that you child is in the wrong, but it could lead them to be more secretive with their online life. Instead, set time limits for screen time and encourage positive activities.

One of the largest effects of cyberbullying is anxiety and stress, and due to its online reach, your child might feel like their home is no longer a place of solitude and calm. Make your home a stress-free zone by encouraging your child to do things they enjoy such as sports or hobbies. For my son and I, we found that escaping to the yard to kick around the soccer ball before dinner was a great stress reliever, and put us both in a comfortable zone to open up conversation about school, activities, and life.

Cyberbullying is far-reaching, making it seem scary and impossible to tackle. Spend some time talking with your child, set rules for online time, and build up their self-respect by spending time together unplugged.