Beat a cyberbully: How parents can help
Last updated 10/28/2021 at 3:46pm
SAN DIEGO – While remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic lowered reported instances of bullying, some parents fear that, for some students, going back to school will mean going back to being bullied.
Jeremy from Fallbrook said, "We feel that it is critical to have a sense of the emotional pulse of our family, especially with our children."
Now 15 years after the inception of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, technology’s ever-greater presence in children’s lives has given bullying a new outlet. With just a click, cyberbullies can taunt, harass and threaten relentlessly, even reaching into the home via cellphone or computer. As a result, victims report feeling hopeless, isolated and even suicidal.
What can parents do to protect their kids? Taking an interest in their children’s online world can make a difference, said the National Parent Teacher Association.
This interest does not necessarily require parents to become tech experts. Instead, the federal stopbullying.gov site advises parents to watch for subtle clues that something is wrong, such as their child becoming withdrawn, hiding their screen when others are nearby or reacting emotionally to what is happening on their device.
In assessing their family's needs, Jeremy and his wife Alissa astutely observed, "By identifying shifts or changes in their moods early, we were able to address minor problems before they became major issues."
Aware of the impact of cyberbullying, Alissa said, "Maintaining open communication allows our children to express themselves freely knowing that we have their best interests at heart."
Talking with kids openly – and often – helps too. “The more you talk to your children about bullying, the more comfortable they will be telling you if they see or experience it,” UNICEF says in its online tips for parents, https://www.unicef.org/end-violence/how-talk-your-children-about-bullying.
As their two daughters enter their teens, Houston parents Thiago and Auboni have found that talking less and listening more works best. “We try to focus on being approachable and listening actively without reaction,” Thiago said.
Beyond talking, listening and observing their kids, parents should not be afraid to make and enforce rules for online activities, experts say.
Thiago and Auboni’s girls are allowed to play online games, but they are expected to turn off the live chat feature to limit interactions with strangers. “We reassure the girls that we trust them and respect their privacy, but they have to stay within the boundaries we’ve set,” Auboni said.
Keith of San Diego County, parent of five, added, "As a family, we agreed to make certain times of the day screen-free and placed limits on screen time. We regularly check to make sure they are used responsibly."
Both families cited the tips and reminders they have considered together with their kids from free resources available on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Keith and his wife Nikki watched the whiteboard animation video from jw.org, "Who's in Control – You or Your Devices?" together with their family.
Highlighting the website's value with the varying ages of their children, Nikki said, "We learned that different ages present different challenges. Suggestions on the website about social media, what to post, privacy settings and who to friend have all been so valuable."
Submitted by Jehovah’s Witnesses.