Is your child an online bully? How to tackle such a situation

Hello Readers,

First of all, warm wishes for the festive season.

I do understand that you’ve been busy with ensuring that you take out ample time to spend with your kids! They grow up quite fast, don’t they?

It’s difficult to catch hold of them when school and college season is on, and they just seem to be running around to board the school bus or engaged in completing their assignments from school. Kids have stories to tell and they just want to share what they learnt in school or who they did in school.

There’s however a notable exception to this rule. Most of us – parents aren’t really clued into what our kids do online.

A quick gaze back at our childhood would indicate that most of us barely had one email account to maintain. Face to face or physical interactions were the norm. Look around today. A digital or cyber presence is absolutely essential for most kids. Children effortlessly navigate through a plethora of social media & communications portals simultaneously which can even make our head spin. I believe, that it’s time we accept the new norm. i.e. the world around us has become increasingly digital and driven by online behaviour.

This adoption of digital/ online platforms by kids has also led to some ugly challenges. Most prominent situation is of cyberbullying which most parents seem to recognize a serious issue and yet they are still unsure of tackling.

CYBERBULLYING consists of using connected devices and cyber platforms to behave aggressively and rudely with someone or a group, with the intention to create distress, disrepute, or disturbance. While for some of us this might be a newer concept which might for us to take it lightly, rest assured there is reason to be concerned.

Cyberbullying is here as a challenge:

As per the findings of Intel Security’s Teens Tweens Technology Report 2015, 52% of the children surveyed indicated they have bullied someone over social media. That’s a pretty significant number isn’t it?

Of the children who admitted to cyberbullying:

  • 27% made fun of other people to someone else
  • 24% called someone fat or ugly/made fun of other physical appearances
  • 23% tagged mean pictures

These are the usual types of cyberbullying indulged in by tweens and teens; it can however get more serious with groups targeting a particular person or a group of people of a particular faith, race, or region. This can sadly lead to fatal consequences, many of which you must have come across in the newspapers. Neither cyberbullying nor its consequences know any geographical boundaries- the internet has made it possible for people to bully anyone anywhere- cyberbullies now have global reach.

Scary, right? All the more because your child can easily be one of the perpetrators.

A cyberbully could also be a victim

Yes, you read it right, your child is as much a victim, a victim of ignorance and circumstances. He may have been a victim of physical bullying or teasing or jokes himself and has chosen the online medium to get even. Or perhaps he is too timid to express his views face-to-face and selects social media to vent his emotions but doesn’t understand when he has overshot decorum limits. Many times, children are unaware about the implications of their actions.

What do you do?

  • Acknowledge the problem– If you have seen your child interacting with strangers or friends in an abusive fashion, then do speak with them about this. You will need to take the first step by accepting that there is a problem. This is the most important action. Your child needs to admit it too and then together you need to look for a solution.
  • Respond not react– this is very important for you to remember; do not let go of your control over your emotions, don’t have an outburst and start a blame game. Handle the situation with outmost care. Focus on what needs to be done to resolve the situation and how. Do let your child know you are there to help resolve this situation.
  • Understand the reason– Talk to your kids! Having an open ended conversation can be the key. We need to understand the root cause in order to resolve it. Talk about what triggered the bout of cyberbullying so this can be handled better in the future.

Tip: hold your kids’ hands all throughout this exchange; the bully needs support too; admitting one’s wrongdoings is not easy

  • Discuss cyberbullying as a crime– Often children do not realise that what they are doing may have serious repercussions. Educate kids that cyberbullying could expose them to legal action, or even cause serious harm to others & oneself. Explain the outcome of going down this road.
  • Make amends-. Starting with an apology is ideal and then work with your kids to remove offensive posts and pics and hiding/deleting mean comments

Tip: a personal apology to the victim is suggested and often a written apology will serve better to mend bridges with the victim.

  • Monitor all online activities and educate on correct online behaviour– Your child needs to realise that internet is a privilege given to him and irresponsible use of it would make them lose this facility. Use established security software like Total Protection from Intel Security or McAfee LiveSafe that offer parental control facilities on all net-enabled devices. Constantly monitor your child’s activity to ensure that the acts are not being repeated and inform your kids about the monitoring of their net-enabled devices
  • Seek professional help: Sometimes, the problem might be too deep or complex for parents to handle alone-especially if the child shows signs of regressive or violent behaviour or suppressed anger. Then it would be a good idea to involve the school counsellor and/or a professional counsellor. They have more practice and professional expertise in drawing out such kids and helping them to mend their ways

A tip for all parents- start digital wellness education early on in life so kids become responsible netizens.

Most importantly: Stay on top of the matter- understand the internet, social media and the latest technology. Organise more family activities and spend time talking and listening to kids. Involve siblings in guiding and monitoring kids. Sign up on all social media sites your kids go to and check internet history to see if any activity is hidden. And check all messages you receive from your parental control monitor to stay updated on his online activities.